Fanfare Marks Close-Out Ceremony of HIV Free Northwest, Southwest Project

CDC Country Director, Dr. Edgar Monterreso (left) congratulating HIV Free Project PI, Prof. Tih Pius (right) for a job well done
CDC Country Director, Dr. Edgar Monterreso (left)
congratulating HIV Free Project PI, Prof. Tih Pius (right)
for a job well done

Tuesday March 21, 2017 has gone down the annals of the Cameroon health care system as the day when the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services, accompanied by the highest authorities of the Northwest Region, their funding partners, the Ministry of Public Health and other partners in the health care sector as well as the general public, celebrated with fanfare the close-out event to mark five years of successfully implementing the “HIV-Free South West and North West Project” with outstanding success stories for all to see. All roads led to the North West Regional Fund f o r H e a l t h P r o m o t i o n (NWRFHP) whose hall played host to the close-out event. Presided at by the Governor of the North West Region’s representative, Mr. Nji Joseph, Social and Economic Affairs Adviser to the Governor, the occasion was heavily attended by dignitaries, representatives of funding organizations, traditional authorities, Mayors, District Medical Officers (DMOs), the project staff from the South West and North West Regions as well as the general public. The five-year “HIV Free South West and North West Project” which ran from September 2011 to September 2016 implemented by the CBCHS was funded by the U.S President’s Emergency Plan for AID Relief (PEPFAR) through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. The Project was implemented with the help of strategic partners, EGPAF and CHAI During the close-out ceremony, the Project’s Principal Investigator (PI) and Director of CBCHS, Prof. Tih Pius Muffih presented the HIV-Free SW and NW Project that has been implemented in the last five years; its milestones, its challenges and the expectations for a way forward through a power-point presentation that left the audience in total appreciation of the path covered and longing for there to be a continuation for the project. The entire package dubbed, “Expanding Coverage and Improving the Quality of Facility and Community-based Prevention of Mother-to child transmission of HIV Programs in the South West and North West Regions of Cameroon Under the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) 2011-2016” with some support and collaboration from EGPAF and CHAI, as presented by Prof. Tih, saw the CBCHS progressing remarkably in: • Scaling up ANC and PMTCT activities in an increased number of sites from 465 (260 in NWR and 205 in SWR) to 639 in the two regions. Increased the percentage of pregnant women tested for HIV and who know their results from 38% (37% in NW and 39 in SW) to 88% (91% in NW and 84% in SW) . • Cumulatively over the five project years, a total of 364,929 pregnant women attended ANC in both regions and 361,356 (99%) were tested for HIV. • Increased the percentage of HIV positive pregnant women who are treated from 38% (38% in NW and 37% in SW) to 94% in both regions. • Of a total of 22,791 HIV positive pregnant women identified during the project years, 21,637 (94.7%) were treated. • Increased HIV Exposed Infant Prophylaxis uptake from 65% to 98%. • Increased early infant diagnosis from 49% to 96% in both regions • Increased the percent of HIV infected infants who received ART from 13% to 57% in both regions. • Piloted option B+, achieving 3% MTCT rates and 78% retention at 12 months. • Trained a total of 669 and certified service providers (nurses) on task shifting to scale up option B+ services, initiating clients on ART • Supported the operationalization of test and treat following the release of the national guidelines. • Supported viral load testing of 1554 individuals (1147 children and 407 adults) of whom 67% had suppression rates(90% for children and 59% for adults). • Revision and development of tools and standard operating procedures (SOPs) to improve service delivery. The project also engaged in advocacy activities in the communities as well as national levels to improve HIV and AIDS service response in Cameroon. The evolution of MTCT rates in the North West Region for example, show a steady drop in transmission and that of the South West Region, though not steadily dropping, depicts a much better picture than it was at the point of take-off of the project. In response to the success evident from Prof. Tih’s presentation, the enthusiasm and desire for the project to continue could be heard clearly in the wo rds o f Dr. Ta y ong Gl ady s, representative of the Permanent Secretary to the National AIDS Control Commission (NACC), as she emphasized that the work has been done so well that they at NACC equally gained so much confidence in the fight against HIV. The Country Director for CDC, Dr. Edgar Monterroso expressed his happiness at the success of the project as he referred to the outcome as a true love story which has come a long way and has created a very positive impact in the lives of people. O t h e r g r e e t i n g s a n d appreciation of the work of the project came from the NWRegional Delegate for Public Health, Dr. Manjo Matilda, the Country Director for EGPAF, Dr. Bako, the Country Director for CHAI, Dr. Divine Nzobotune and the PEPFAR Country Coordinator, who all noted with interest the extent to which the project has been successful in the last five years. The Project close-out which brought together civil, traditional and religious authorities from across the NW Region got several awards during its five-year span including one from the African Synergy against AIDS and Suffering in 2015. The Close-Out event moved to the SW region on March 24, 2017 precisely at the Health Services Complex in Mutengene. Here, the much expected news was broken when the CDC Country Director, Dr. Edgar Monterreso announced a new relationship with the CBCHS in a new project on Linkage and Retention. This announcement received a deafening applause from the regional team and CBC officials who had listened to the presentation by the PI, Prof. Tih Pius and were wondering what will become of their patients after the Close-Out. The new project will link those who are positive to care and retain those who are on treatment

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