Caritas Nigeria health portfolio focuses on interventions that promotes wellness of every individual and integral human development as a whole. The focus is on both communicable diseases and non-communicable diseases as well as maternal and new-born child interventions. Following its formal registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in September, 2010, Caritas Nigeria's very first intervention was in Health & HIV/AIDS. Using its absorptive capacity to implement programs in hundreds of secondary and primary health facilities as well as the enormous structure of the Church, the organization was able to expand its scope in health interventions to implement programs across over 200 faith based health facilities as demonstrated below.
AIDSRelief was Caritas Nigeria’s debut in program implementation, following its establishment by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) in September, 2010.
The AIDSRelief was a Catholic Relief Services (CRS) led project in collaboration with its two sub-partners namely: Institute of Human Virology (IHV) and Futures Group. The project was implemented in nine PEPFAR focus countries including Nigeria and achieved significance success in providing ART to underserved populations in target countries, by helping to improve the quality of life of people living with HIV (PLHIV). The AIDSRelief consortium worked closely with government, ministries of health and in-country United States Government (USG) teams to mitigate the HIV pandemic, support host-country strategic objectives and helped in the realization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC).
The goal of the program was to help local partners implement quality HIV care and treatment programs that will result in durable therapeutic outcomes for patients. As of September, 2011, AIDSRelief has provided ART to 47,000 people in Nigeria, including 8,400 pregnant women and nearly 4,000 children.
The Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Response the Inter-Faith Solution (CHARIS), was a PEPFAR/CDC funded Project with the goal: “Reduced Mortality and Morbidity from HIV in sixteen states of Nigeria”. The project was a continuation of the PEPFAR supported AIDSRelief project, which provided comprehensive care, treatment and support for people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.
CHARIS was a consortium of five member organizations led by the Christian Health Association of Nigeria (CHAN) and includes the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Futures Group, Caritas Nigeria and UMSOM-IHV. This HIV prevention, care and treatment program aimed to ensure low-risk transition as leadership of the then existing AIDSRelief program changed from international to local implementing partners.
On this grant, Caritas Nigeria managed a total of 10 SDFs with 10 satellite sites. It was responsible for managing funds, coordinating, supervising and reporting activities in these health facilities. These SDFs provided HIV Testing and Counseling (HTC), Antirethroviral Therapy (ART) and Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services for the program.
CHARIS strove to maintain and improve upon the gains of AIDSRelief through continued capacity building and onsite mentoring of treatment facility staff, and through the establishment of model training sites and a Center of Excellence. Excellent clinical and lab services were complemented by outreach mechanisms to primary health centers and communities that CHAN had developed in its other treatment project.
In September 2011, Caritas Nigeria won its first major award in its Health & HIV/AIDS portfolio called the Sustainable HIV Care and Treatment Action in Nigeria (SUSTAIN). This was a 5-year PEPFAR-funded cooperative agreement through which Caritas Nigeria implemented a comprehensive HIV care, treatment and prevention program in 12 states in Nigeria in collaboration with 141 Faith-based health facilities and organizations.
Working through faith based organizations & health facilities, community based organizations and psycho-social support groups, the SUSTAIN program was able to execute key activities that include: Community Engagement for Demand Creation and Behavioral Change; HIV Testing and Counseling; HIV Treatment, Care and Support, Prevention; support to Orphans and Vulnerable Children; Laboratory Services, Commodity Logistics Management and Information System, and Strategic Information.
In response to SUSTAIN’s goal of reducing morbidity and mortality from HIV, the program was implemented through 141 partner facilities (comprising comprehensive centers and stand-alone ante-natal clinics focusing on the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV and 13 Community Based Organizations) distributed across 12 states in Nigeria, namely: Benue, Delta, Kaduna, Kogi, Nasarawa, Oyo, Ondo, Ogun, Osun, Plateau, Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The SUSTAIN program contributed significantly to the institutional capacity of Caritas Nigeria, positioning it as one of the foremost organizations implementing integrated public health programs on a national scale. In addition to supporting routine service delivery through her partners, Caritas Nigeria supported the government of Nigeria to host, update and analyze the National Data Repository for diseases of public health importance, as well as the roll-out the Electronic Medical Records for real-time tracking of Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) services in 260 PMTCT sites across 32 Local Government Areas in Nigeria.
Through the SUSTAIN program, Caritas Nigeria in collaboration with the Global Health Initiative of the University of Nevada Las Vegas also implemented a Congregational Approach to PMTCT (also known as the Baby Shower). This was aimed at demonstrating the effectiveness of an integrated approach to HIV testing using congregational settings (in this case, churches) in a PMTCT setting. In the fourth year of implementation, Caritas Nigeria used the Congregational Baby Shower strategy to provide HIV counselling and testing to 12,390 people (8,273 pregnant women, 4,127 male partners), with male partner testing rate of 50% compared to the national average of less than 28%. Of the 756 HIV-positive persons identified (607 women, 149 men), 91% were linked to treatment, achieving the second goal in the UNAIDS 90-90-90 strategy.
The SUSTAIN program successfully closed out on the 29th September, 2017 and following Caritas Nigeria's participation in another keenly contested Request For Proposals call from PEPFAR/CDC, emerged successful and was awarded another five-year grant in the Global Action Towards Epidemic control in Sub-national units in Nigeria (4GATES) project from October 2017 to September 2022 which is currently ongoing.