“Enhancing Pediatric HIV Management: Service Providers Convene to Bridge Gaps and Improve Care for Children Living with HIV”
Service providers working under the Children Momentum and Equality Projects have convened to assess the last project year and brainstorm on ways to help children and adolescents living with HIV stay in care, attain viral suppression, and improve quality of life. They also communicated on ways to reduce health inequalities among Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) and Adolescent Boys and Young Men (ABYM). This 2-day workshop running from Thursday, January 25 to Friday, January 26 at the Nkwen Baptist Center saw these healthcare providers coordinate their activities for the upcoming year. The Program Manager, Mrs. Awa Fanny introduced the session by reminding the participants of the Projects’ objectives which are to empower these young people to stay in care, create safe spaces that would improve viral suppression, and scale up the provision of quality integrated HIV/SRH services to improve quality of life and reduce health inequalities.
Coordination meetings of this sort would fully engage all participants in discussions about their progress in helping children attain the three 95s HIV target set by UNAIDS, the challenges they have faced, and possible solutions to improve treatment and retention outcomes. Their challenges differed based on rural and urban settings. One of the pertinent issues raised was the collaboration between the service providers, the peer supporters, and the caregiver mentors. A point was raised, the importance of relating with the Peer supporters and Caregiver mentors like teammates and colleagues to build trust and establish close links which would help to improve their activities. “How you talk to a person tells whether you value their work. You must exercise patience with these young people” said Dr Pascal Nji Atanga, Pediatric Advisor at the CBC Health Services as he called on the service providers to transfer skills to the peer supporters.
To forge the path ahead, some innovations were made in their work plans. This included the Child Safeguarding Code of Conduct, a document to be signed by every parent or caregiver to protect Children Living with HIV. This document gives the responsibilities parents have and in case of failure, the Ministry of Social Affairs will step in to assist the vulnerable child. Also, to fight cervical cancer in young women, it was recommended that all girls and boys aged 9 to 14 be vaccinated with the HPV vaccine, while those out of the age be referred for screening.
“We are counting on you to bridge the gaps for us to reach the 95 targets and we know that pediatric HIV management is not a walk in the park so, we all have to go the extra mile” encouraged Mr. Ntsekendio Paul Nyibio, Focal Point in charge of the Monitoring and Coordination of Psychosocial Workers’ activities and Community-Based Organizations for the Northwest region. Excited to take on the challenge to improve pediatric HIV management, a service provider, Mr. Mongi Caspa, the focal point for the Children Momentum and Equality Projects at the Ndu District Hospital expressed his interest to work harder to meet up with the projects’ objectives. “I have learned so much and realized that the things I took for granted were very important. Henceforth, I will work closely with my team members, and push for more innovative practices so that we can close the current gaps” he stated. This coordination meeting is one of the ways the Equality project engages and capacitates service providers, keeping them informed about the developments and improvements made to increase the identification of new HIV-related cases, increase retention in care, and increase the number of virally suppressed Children Living with HIV.