The kick-off of the new project year for the HIV Free project has taken place in the three implementing regions that make up zone 1 of the project – Southwest, West, and Northwest Regions of Cameroon. This project implemented by the CBC Health Services in this zone, witnessed the launch of COP21 on October 13, 14, and 15, 2021 across these three regions.
The official launching of the project year was officiated by the Director of CBC Health Services, Professor Tih Pius Muffih who doubles as the Principal Investigator (PI) of the project. Across the three regions, the message from the PI stressed hard work from all project staff to meet the targets set by the funding partners. These targets are geared towards reaching epidemic control as prescribed by the WHO, UNAIDS, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Atlanta, and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
As the CBC Health Services starts the Project Year with all the enthusiasm and optimism to realize epidemic control, the Ministry of Health in Cameroon also requests for epidemic control (when new HIV infections have decreased and fall below the total number of deaths among HIV-infected individuals) in the country. With the renewed enthusiasm and commitment, the zeal is to attain UNAIDS 95-95-95 strategy that aims to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 by achieving 95% diagnosed among all people living with HIV (PLHIV), 95% on antiretroviral therapy (ART) among diagnosed, and 95% virally suppressed (VS) among treated cases.
The launching referred to as “A time of reckoning” by the Regional Technical Group Coordinator (RTG), Dr. Tayong Gladys, witnessed an elaborate self-evaluation of the activities of the just ended COP20 in all three regions in the following areas: achievements registered, challenges faced, and the way forward to ensure a more successful COP21 and strive towards meeting the 95-95-95 targets of 2030.
It is worth noting that the HIV Free project started in Cameroon in 2011 implemented by the CBC Health Services in the Northwest and Southwest regions. The start of the project witnessed hard work and gained PEPFAR’S support to scale it up to four regions with an addition of the Littoral and Centre Regions. It was eventually scaled up to all the regions of Cameroon with the addition of implementing partners.
The CBC Health Services now implementing in Zone 1 (Northwest, Southwest, and West Regions) counts the scale-up as a great achievement in working hard to give a better life to PLHIV. The downward trend in the sero-prevalence rate of HIV in Cameroon can also be attributed to the relentless efforts of all implementers of the HIV-Free project, work that has led to greater viral suppression, the main target to be attained.
With viral suppression, carriers can no longer transmit the virus to others. The treatment coverage is now higher and case identification through overall testing has also improved with more people placed on treatment. They have prolonged healthy lives.
Successes registered by the project in recent years have been in the midst of the socio-political crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, impediments overcome by the CBC Health Services to render much-needed services, as “nothing can stop us from forging ahead with services for the people of Cameroon,” notes Prof Tih.
During the launching, the entire project staff was appreciated for their resilience to these crises to ensure that services are delivered. The PI made a firm call for efforts to be multiplied to get the needed viral suppression which is the ultimate goal of the project, while also prioritizing Case Identification and Treatment.
The project staff were admonished to put in their best and work with all integrity in respect of all the necessary Standard procedures in their respective sites, encourage and practice teamwork, and create a good rapport and working relations with all stakeholders and communities.
COP20 ends with recognitions for work done by facilities and achievements acquired by individuals. Fhi360 awarded certificates of excellence to facilities across the three regions for outstanding performances in the execution of CQI projects in the HIV Free project in the Regions. Meritorious Coordinators/Facilitators received certificates of appreciation from the University of Washington for their committed services in the Online Course in Clinical Management of HIV offered through the University of Washington Department of Global Health E-Learning Program from April to June 2021. Students who undertook this Course also received their certificates. It should be noted that staff are allowed to study while they work to improve work efficacy.
Present during these meetings were project field staff, Senior Management Team of the HIVF project, site leads, the Focal Points of PEPFAR supported sites and the Regional Technical Group Coordinators.