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Institute Receives Awards for Quality HIV Prevention Services

The Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) has received awards for outstanding provision of HIV prevention services for People who Inject Drugs (PWID), and for quality reporting of gender-based violence services.

IHVN Prevention Lead, Mrs. Comfort Ochigbo officially presented the awards to the Institute’s management represented by IHVN Chief Operating Officer/Managing Director, Dr. Charles Olalekan Mensah.

Mrs. Ochigbo said that the award from FHI-360 was for the excellent provision of prevention services to more than 9,900 PWID in Rivers State from April 2022 to December 2023

“IHVN provided these services as a sub-recipient to FHI-360 on the Global Fund National Aligned HIV/AIDS Initiative Grant (NAHI). In 23 Local Government Areas of the state, we provided community naloxone distribution to prevent death from opioid overdose, medical-assisted therapy assessment, condom distribution, and peer outreaches. IHVN also promoted safe injection practices, and implemented evidence-based interventions using hot-spot analysis,” she said.

Mrs. Ochigbo added that the Institute worked with the Rivers State Ministry of Health, Rivers State Agency for the Control of AIDS, the Global Initiative for Health and Rights, and Diadem Consults.

“We organized frequent joint meetings with stakeholders like the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, the Police Command, local vigilante groups, youth groups, religious leaders and lawyers for an enabling environment for services to get to PWIDs.”

According to her, other approaches adopted that led to excellent delivery of prevention services in the state include, providing peer volunteers working in the community with identity cards, branded bags, and face caps with the national emblem. A social media group was also formed to share relevant information.

Mrs. Ochigbo noted that the second award was from the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs for excellent large-scale reporting of gender-based violence data on the National Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Dashboard.

“After receiving training from the Ministry, we stepped down the training to staff from 70 of our supported facilities. They reported Gender-Based Violence cases, referral services, survivors who received post-GBV care services, GBV cases prosecuted amongst other indicators,” she said.

IHVN emerged as the second-best organization and the only PEPFAR Implementing partner to report quality large-scale report program data.

IHVN Seeks Collaboration to Implement Nationwide Global Fund TB/HIV Project

The Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) has called for collaboration to implement the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Grant Cycle 7 (GC7) project, a nationwide project to improve HIV and tuberculosis prevention and treatment services.

IHVN Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Patrick Dakum, made this call at a workshop in Abuja with more than 100 stakeholders from the government, public and private sectors in attendance.

“We all need to work together to give the best services to Nigerians. As we embark on the largest Global Fund grant awarded to a local non-governmental organization, we are confident that as a unified Nigerian team, we can achieve the grant’s goals of preventing and caring for individuals with tuberculosis and HIV and ensure that no one is left behind. We believe that this goal is within our reach through strong leadership from the government at various levels, collaboration, integration, and community engagement,” he said.

Dr Dakum urged the sub-recipients of the grant to avoid duplication of services as resources are limited.

“The need for collaboration and alignment at the state and LGA levels cannot be overemphasized. The Global community is watching whether Nigeria will succeed or not. As Principal Recipient of the grant, we are committed to providing the best platform for success working under the National Guidelines,” he added.

The GC7 project is focused on ensuring early diagnosis of TB and HIV and providing comprehensive care for affected individuals. The grant which runs from January 2024 to December 2026 will increase the provision of tuberculosis services in the community and through public-private partnership.

Other objectives of the grant include expanding HIV testing for all pregnant women in communities and strengthening laboratories and supply chain management. IHVN has engaged the Association for Reproductive and Family Health (ARFH), Caritas Nigeria, Damien Foundation Nigeria, KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation Nigeria, Leprosy & Tuberculosis Relief Initiative, Nigeria (LTR), The Leprosy Mission Nigeria (TLMN), REDAID Nigeria, and Stop TB Nigeria as sub-recipients to provide tuberculosis services. In the same vein, Achieving Health Nigeria Initiative (AHNi), Excellence Community Education Welfare Scheme (ECEWS), Society for Family Health (SFH), and Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN) will be providing comprehensive HIV care services.

Research to Reduce Breast, Cervical Cancer Deaths Kicks Off

 According to Globocan 2020, cancer causes an estimated 78,000 deaths in Nigeria annually, with breast cancer and cervical cancer being the most common cancers among women in Nigeria. To reduce mortality from these cancers in the country, the International Research Center of Excellence of Excellence (IRCE) at the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) has kicked off a five-year research project titled, Network for Oncology Research in Africa (NORA).

The project is to be implemented within a consortium made of four African countries: Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Tanzania. It will involve 35 population-based cancer registries from 25 sub-Saharan African countries.

At a kick-off meeting for the project in Abuja, NORA Co-Principal Investigator, Dr. Victoria Igbinomwanhia said, “Screening for breast and cervical cancers in Nigeria is low and diagnosis is delayed, and the project will look for ways to improve that”.

The project will look at widely established benchmark indicators of adequate cancer care including screening uptake, stage at presentation, time to diagnosis, and referral to treatment. The study will examine the pattern of cancer incidence, cancer stage, cancer survival and how it changes over time. The study will look for ways to increase demand for cancer screening in rural and urban communities and means to successfully integrated cancer care in decentralized primary care settings. How can hospital-based cancer registries help trace patient journeys and support standardized treatment referrals within a resource-constrained setting for example?

“We know that currently, palliative care models for cancer care do not exist in the country. Along with caregivers and healthcare workers, we will identify interventions for adequate home and community care for cancer patients. The goal of NORA is to reduce the burden of breast and cervical cancer in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa. The research also seeks to generate policy recommendations for effective cancer control strategies,” Dr. Ighinomwanhia expanded.

NORA will be using both quantitative and qualitative methods to undertake research in six health facilities and communities in FCT, Nasarawa, and Rivers States. Data from 2015 to 2026 will be used to establish findings from the research which will involve Master’s, Ph.D., and Post Doctoral students.

One of the NORA Masters students, Mrs. Gloria Harrison Osagie notes, “I’ll be looking at how we can identify and close the gaps needed to strengthen cancer registries and improve cancer data quality in Nigeria.” Mrs. Harrison Osagie, who is a cancer registrar, says that “training of cancer registrars will improve reporting on cancer stages to guide policy formulation and evidence-based programs.”

Another Master’s student, Dr. Igoche Peter commented that the multidisciplinary nature of NORA means that the project will result in different perspectives from different people on the same concept of cancer care.

“In palliative care, you are looking at how you will improve the quality of life of people diagnosed with cancer. We want to improve community palliative care in cancer in Nigeria which is a novel area in Nigeria. We cannot transplant what works elsewhere to the Nigerian setting without finding out what is suitable for our culture,” Dr Peter says.

NORA is being implemented with funding from the BMZ- the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, through the GIZ.

IHVN Sensitizes Students about GBV

To mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) with the theme, “Unite! Invest to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls”, the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) has sensitized students and communities on the need to prevent and report gender-based violence.

In Abuja, IHVN visited Government Day Secondary School (GDSS) Karu to increase awareness about creating a safe environment for students.

IHVN Senior Program Officer Prevention Care and Treatment, Mrs. Derby Collins-Kalu said, “Students are sometimes not only the victims but also the perpetrators. Safety is the responsibility of all and is a human right. Every student must endeavor to stay safe, avoid going to places where their safety is not guaranteed, and keep away from bad influence. Students should also report any unfair treatment, any suspected act of stalking, grooming, sexual harassment, or sexual and emotional violence.”

GDSS Karu Social Prefect, Okoro Rejoice, who participated in the sensitization activity said that she will advocate for the prevention of GBV. “I’ve learned the different types of violence, how to identify red flags and to report any case of gender-based violence (GBV).” I can tell other students who were not here what I’ve learned to prevent gender-based violence (GBV).”

In Katsina State and Rivers State, students of Government Girls Day Secondary School Daura and Community Secondary School Rukpuokwu, Portharcourt also received sensitization about preventing GBV.

IHVN Urges Communities to Get Involved to End AIDS

To mark the World AIDS Day 2023, the Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria (IHVN) has urged communities to join efforts to end AIDS by 2023.

At a sensitization campaign in Government Secondary School Garki, in the FCT, IHVN FCT Regional Manager, Dr. Danjuma Sanda said that, “Collaboration is key as we strive to reach hard-to-reach communities. Testing is crucial; it’s an opportunity for everyone to know their HIV status. Remember, HIV is not a death sentence; we have life-saving antiretroviral medication. Everyone should get involved to create awareness about this disease that is ravaging our communities. Let us tackle this challenge together.”

GSS Garki Principal, Mr. Sadeeq Ayo Ochiji, thanked the Institute for the sensitization activity and packages given to the students.

“It is wonderful that you have looked outside the box and have reached out to community leaders like me to play my own role in the goal to end AIDS because I am a community leader here in this school.”

Before the school sensitization program in Abuja, IHVN  participated in a press conference and road walk organized by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) to create awareness about HIV and the importance of getting tested for HIV.

In Nasarawa State, Katsina State and Rivers State, IHVN commemorated the day with a call to communities to shun stigmatization, utilize HIV services and take action to end HIV through road walks with stakeholders and community outreaches providing free HIV testing services.