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IHVN, RSUTH host US Consul General on Visit

The Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) has joined the Rivers State Government in welcoming the US Consul General, Mr. Will Stevens, to the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, PortHarcourt on a visit.

IHVN Chief Operating Officer and Managing Director, Dr. Charles Olalekan Mensah said that with funding from the US Government through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), IHVN has supported the HIV program in the facility to test more than 56,000 people for HIV and enroll more than 1,900 people for antiretroviral treatment from April 2019 to September 2023.

Dr. Mensah noted that the hospital has done excellently in caring for patients and providing accurate data on the HIV program. He thanked the US government for its funding support.

“On behalf of all the patients in this facility who receive HIV services, we thank you for your leadership. Since 2019 when we started providing HIV services in the state, the state government has been supportive. We ask that we are resourced more to enable the facility to do more,” he said.

Mr. Stevens toured the IHVN-supported PCR laboratory in the hospital which supports over 180 health facilities in Rivers and neighboring states with EID and viral load tests. The PCR laboratory analyses close to 3000 samples daily. He also interacted with mothers who have benefitted from the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV services provided at the facility and have HIV-free children.

The US Consul General said that the success of the HIV program in the facility and the state is a result of working together.

“United States is committed to partnering with the continent and working with this beautiful, amazing country to find a path forward on the challenges that face us, in climate change, health issues, and youth unemployment to work on and solve these problems together. I am grateful to be here. I love seeing how we are working together to help save lives,” he said.

Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Adaeze Oreh, said that the Rivers State Government appreciates the support of the US government for the support to close significant gaps in the care of people living with HIV/AIDS in Rivers State.

“The impact of this is that having more people know their status, being placed on treatment and with viral load suppression helps in the journey towards destigmatizing the ailment and this is key to the focus on health for all in Rivers State,” she said.

Global Fund Awards Nigeria $9 Million to Address HIV, TB, Malaria

The Honourable Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammed Ali Pate has launched the Global Fund Grant Cycle 7 award of $933, 156,931 to Nigeria to address HIV, tuberculosis and malaria from 2024-2026.

Prof. Pate, also the Chairman of the Global Fund Country Coordinating Mechanism, unveiled the award in Abuja. He stated that one of the expected results from the grant on HIV is that the country achieves the UNAIDS  95-95- 95 goal of ensuring that  95% of the people who are living with HIV know their HIV status, placing  95% of the people who know that they are living with HIV on life-saving anti-retroviral treatment, and making sure that 95% of people who are on treatment are being virally suppressed by 2025.

“It is a tall order and we will be very diligent and we hope there will be no fuzzy numbers. The mandate is also to scale of service among all the vulnerable populations and prevention of mother-to-child transmission services using the primary health care system as part of the sector-wide effort.

On tuberculosis, the goal is to increase the case notification rate for all forms of TB from where it is to sustain the current TB success rate beyond the initial target of 90% during this grant period; and to enroll 100% of drug-resistant TB patients on appropriate treatment by 2026. For malaria, the focus will be on improving access and utilization of vector control interventions and ensuring the provision of chemo prevention, diagnosis, and appropriate treatment for 80% of the target population,” he said.

The Coordinating Minister called on Principal Recipients of the grant to use the resources judiciously to deliver services.

“This CCM is committing itself to monitor and to have a robust framework for tracking the resources of governmental and non-governmental actors in a transparent manner.  We will ensure it happens because we signed a contract stating we will do that. I want to assure the donors that we will use these resources judiciously.

The grant will be implemented by Principal Recipients, the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), the National AIDS and STDs Control Programme (NASCP), National Tuberculosis, Leprosy & Buruli Ulcer Control Programme (NTBLCP), Institute for Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN), National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and the Lagos State Ministry of Health.

Also at the event, Global Fund representative, Maria Kirova, congratulated the country for the successes recorded in addressing AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

“I’m pleased also to share with you the news that Nigeria has recorded one of the highest resource utilization rates of Global fund resources in the Grant Cycle 6 – more than 95%. That is a testament to your good work. We have no doubt that with all your leadership, mobilization, commitment, and expertise, the country will continue to drive a successful implementation path forward. I would like to reiterate the Global Fund’s commitment to fully collaborate with the CCM-Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Health, the Principal Recipients, and other partners, under the leadership of the honorable Coordinating Minister to ensure a successful implementation of the Grant Cycle 7,” she said.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN), Dr. Patrick Dakum assured the country and the international community of the commitment of the Principal Recipients to program efficiency and financial accountability.

“Our driving force is that at the end of the grant period, the country, the Country Coordinating Mechanism, and the Global Fund will be proud of our efforts. We will work assiduously to deliver the required services to Nigerians. As Principal Recipients, our role is to ensure that the sub-recipients deliver HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria services with accountability,” he said.

Representatives from bilateral, and multilateral partners, the United Nations, the US Government, legislature, international non-governmental organizations, civil society, and the legislature participated in the launch of the Global Fund GC7 grant.

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.