Health providers in the Northwest (NW) Region of Cameroon have been called to work in synergy in the fight against HIV. Prof. Tih Pius Muffih, Principal Investigator of the HIV-Free Project Cameroon made the clarion call at the launch of the new phase of the HIV-Free Northwest Project last October 24, 2019, in Bamenda.
Cameroon currently has the second-highest HIV (Human Immune Virus) prevalence in West and Central Africa. The country had 5.3% prevalence in 2004 which later dropped to 3.4% in 2018 due to several programs and projects implemented at the regional and national levels. The Northwest Region alone has an HIV burden of 5.1% with women shouldering much of the burden. The HIV Prevalence in women in this region is five (5) times higher than it is in men.
Conjecturing from the HIV prevalence in the region, Prof. Tih prescribed concerted efforts and teamwork for the region to be HIV free. “Every health care provider should work in a concerted way in the region. This project is one for the entire region and everyone should be a part; so that we can reach epidemic control,” he said.
This phase of the HIV-Free Northwest Project under the Country Operational Plan (COP19) is sponsored by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The project will be implemented by the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Services in 30 health facilities, in 15 Health Districts, representing a total of 80% of Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV).
Dr. Albert Bako, Technical Director says the project’s principal goal is to expand access to comprehensive HIV/AIDS care and treatment, and TB (tuberculosis) prevention services to clients in a bid to reach epidemic control by the end of COP20. “For this to be achieved we need to identify and place over 30,000 new PLHIV on treatment,” he stressed.
It is worth stating that the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Services is the lone national (local) organization retained as implementing partner of COP19 under PEPFAR’s new decision to scale up the HIV-Free Project to all 10 regions of Cameron. The country has been structured into four strategic zones. The Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Services will be supporting three regions; West, Northwest, and Southwest.
Declaring official the launching of COP19, Northwest Regional Delegate of Public Health,Dr. Kingsley Che Soh said they rely on the resources and experience of the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Services to lessen the burden of HIV on the population. He further called on health providers to respect the uniform guiding principles in the HIV response. “We have to respect one agreed national action framework for coordinating all activities of implementing partners, one national AIDS coordinating authority and one agreed on country-level monitoring and evaluation,” he noted.
Given the urgency to reduce considerably new HIV infections in the region, Dr. Nkome George, Manager HIV-Free Northwest says staff already deployed in the earmarked sites will pay focused attention on index testing. “With targeted testing and immediate placement on treatment if tested positive, we reach epidemic control,” he added.
It should be noted that the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Services is the oldest provider of HIV related services in Cameroon. The HIV-Free project is one of the moves aimed at supporting the National AIDS Control Programme in the Northwest under the leadership Cameroon’s Ministry of Public Health.