The United States Ambassador to Cameroon, Christopher John Lamora has visited some US President’s Emergence Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) supported sites in the SW region; Baptist Hospital Mutengene (BHM) and National Early Infant Diagnosis Reference Laboratory (NEIDL). The visit on July 20, 2022, falls in line with familiarity visits by US Ambassadors to US-Government-funded-projects after they assume office in Cameroon.
With his first stop at the Baptist Hospital Mutengene (BHM), the Ambassador was received by HIV-Free (HIVF) Officials and the BHM Administration. He took a tour of Care and treatment Centre; clients’ waiting area, the pharmacy and Care and Treatment laboratory also called mini-lab where the head of the lab explained the types of tests run and the assistance received from the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The assistance includes among others, some of the machines used.
The Ambassador was expressly elated with the work in the facility in BHM and noted, “The US Government is pleased to be able to be a longtime partner in your efforts to deliver high quality health care to the people of Mutengene and beyond”. In an interview after going through the Care and Treatment Center, the Ambassador affirmed that the facility is doing a great job and the US Government will continue their partnership in touching lives.
Baptist Hospital Mutengene is a direct service delivery facility with 43 PEPFAR-supported staff, comprising Doctors, Nurses, Case Managers, Index Testers, Testing Counsellors and Data Clerks who work with clients along their treatment cascade. This also includes rendering psychosocial support to help patients along this path. The team ensures continuity and sustainability of US supported work in the CBC Health Services, which according to Prof. Tih Pius Muffih, Director of the CBC Health Services, started in 2004 with the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV and has multiplied with other services to present.
The Ambassador sought to know if the project will meet the 95 95 95 HIV/AIDS target, which is to (diagnose at least 95% of all HIV-positive individuals, provide antiretroviral therapy (ART) to at least 95% of those diagnosed, and achieve at least 95% Viral Load Suppression for those on treatment by 2030. He also quizzed on how the PEPFAR platform helps in the response to COVID – 19.
In response, project staff assured the Ambassador that they are working tirelessly to meet targets. Regarding COVID–19, they said, patients are sensitized to take informed decisions as vaccination is undertaken to ensure a scale up of vaccinations in Cameroon inclusive of people living with HIV. The HIV-Free staff through their Technical Director, Dr. Albert Bakor used the occasion to thank the US Government through PEPFAR for enabling them ensure quick response to COVID–19, thanks to the provision of baseline training, testing equipment especially with the PCR machine which was the only machine for testing in the SWR during the onset of the pandemic.
The Ambassador expressed satisfaction after his tour of BHM: “I was really happy to visit the Baptist Hospital Mutengene which the US Government through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) have been able to support for many years. BHM is in a key location and their efforts in the Southwest region to combat HIV and AIDS are great. I have seen all the facilities where the patients are met, the reference locations for other services, the laboratory and the Trauma Center. The Mutengene Baptist Hospital is doing great work to show that our partnership is important, and we will definitely continue it going forward”.
At the Health Services Complex Mutengene, the Ambassador visited the National Early Infant Diagnosis Reference Laboratory (NEIDRL) and the Central Pharmacy (HESCO water production and drug store). The NEIDRL Supervisor, Mr. Masha Roland showed the Ambassador the different testing booths and COVID-19 testing section. He revealed that because their testing volume is very high, ranking the first in the country in terms of volume and quality, ABOTT has promised to give the Lab a machine known as ABBOTT Alinity M which is a large capacity multiplex system that can carry out different tests simultaneously and will reduce stress and the Turn Around Time (TAT). With the new machine, he noted, 300 tests would be run within 8 hours. Currently, the NEIDRL conducts Early Infant Diagnosis, Viral Load and COVID – 19 Tests.
Mr. Masha also used the occasion to highlight some of the challenges of the lab, one of which is the frequent stock out of Viral Load (VL) reagents in the country which sometimes disrupts the plan of work and services to the population. The Ambassador was pleased with ongoing work in this facility despite the fact that the last visit by a US Ambassador to the lab was a couple of years back. He promised to take care of the main challenge, stock outs. “I am concerned about the stock out and supply chain and we will continue to work together to figure out how we will be able to address that better,” he concluded.
The US Ambassador to Cameroon, rounded up his visit at the Central Pharmacy Mutengene, the central point where drugs are received, stored and distributed to all CBC Health Services facilities throughout the country. These include ARVs (drugs for HIV) that are sent to all treatment centers.
Worthy of note is the fact that at every stop, the US Ambassador sort to know how PEPFAR has been supporting and their challenges as he frequently asked ‘Is there something I need to know?’. This is his maiden visit to the SW after he was sworn in as Ambassador in Cameroon early this year and the second region after the West Region for PEPFAR funded projects in Zone 1 (West, Southwest, and Northwest regions), of the project implemented by the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Services.
Ambassador Lamora was guided through this tour by the Director of the CBC Health Services, Prof Tih Pius Muffih.