SUSTAIN Partners' Forum is a bi-annual event organized by Caritas Nigeria with health facilities, Community Based Organizations (CBOs), representatives of State Action Committee on AIDS (SACA) and Federal Ministry of Health, who are all implementing Partners of the HIV/AIDS intervention across 12 states in Nigeria. The Forum is an avenue where Caritas Nigeria and Partners meet to discuss and plan on how to reach more persons with HIV prevention, care and treatment services. This year's SUSTAIN Partners’ Forum which held on the 9th and 10th of May, 2016, in Abuja looks at Caritas Nigeria's HIV intervention so far and how to achieve the UNAIDS 90-90-90 target to end AIDS.
The SUSTAIN Program, with support from the United States’ Centers for Disease Control & prevention (CDC) provides comprehensive care, treatment and prevention for People Living with HIV and AIDS through Faith Based Health Facilities, Community Based Organizations and PLHIV Support Groups. Activities carried out by the SUSTAIN Program include: Community Engagement for Demand Creation and Behavioral Change; HIV Testing and Counseling; HIV Care and Treatment, Prevention; support to Orphans and Vulnerable Children; Laboratory Services, Commodity Logistics Management and Strategic Information Management.
At this Fiscal Year’s first Partners’ Forum, the Executive Secretary of Caritas Nigeria Rev. Fr. Evaristus Bassey stated that “we all owe society, as our personal social responsibility in the midst of present challenges with the economy to contribute our efforts, skills and other resources to bring about positive change in the society”.
Fr. Bassey enjoined staff and partners to see their work as contributing to the greater goal of helping to eliminate HIV/AIDS around the world as their very little effort will add to contributions of others around the world. “see your work beyond your organization but as contributing to a larger goal of making the society a better place for everyone” he added.
Fr. Bassey thanked the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria for establishing a platform like Caritas Nigeria that supports thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS and over a million others who have access to HIV counseling and testing around Nigeria.
Caritas Nigeria presently supports 56,533 HIV positive beneficiaries and many more indirect beneficiaries like spouses, children and relatives of persons living with HIV including HIV orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) while 1,781,411 have obtained HIV testing and counseling so far. The SUSTAIN project operates through 112 health facilities (comprising of 44 comprehensive centers and 68 stand-alone ante-natal clinics focusing on prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV or PMTCTC sites) distributed across 12 states in Nigeria, namely: Benue, Delta, Kaduna, Kogi, Nasarawa, Oyo, Ondo, Ogun, Osun, Plateau, Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Furthermore, SUSTAIN also works through 7 Community Based Organizations (CBOs) located in FCT-Abuja, Benue, Plateau, Kaduna and Lagos States which provides HIV prevention, community outreaches for HIV testing and OVC services. Caritas Nigeria supports Health Systems Strengthening in all the partner faith based facilities as well the respective Denominational Health departments through whom the project is being implemented. These faith-based platforms include Catholic, Anglican, NKST, ECWA, and other Christian denominations as well with Muslim partners Nassarawa and FCT-Abuja.
In addition to providing HIV care and treatment services to PLHIVs, Caritas Nigeria is also supported by CDC to provide additional data-management tasks in view of the performance of the organization’s Strategic Information roles. One of these assigned responsibility is the development of a National Data Repository (NDR), a project which supports the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) with a database and dashboard of HIV care and treatment service delivery in Nigeria. This internet-based platform will be expanded to include other public health diseases with time.
Similarly, Caritas Nigeria is also developing the Real Time Data Reporting for PMTCT services, also implemented in support of FMoH, such that all ante-natal clinics providing PMTCT services are linked electronically (via the internet) so new PMTCT cases, childbirth, treatment completion, etc are notifiable and received centrally in the state and federal ministries of health.
Caritas Nigeria SUSTAIN Program is funded by the United States of America PEPFAR Program through the Centre for Disease Control and prevention (CDC). Caritas Nigeria works with other partners who share the same humanitarian and development objectives towards EndingAIDS and achieving the organization’s vision of “a harmonious environment where everyone enjoys fullness of life”.