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Nto Edino Community in Akwa Ibom Makes Progress in Overcoming the Stigma of HIV/AIDS


The people of Nto Edino community in Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area (LGA) of Akwa Ibom State have lived in fear of the HIV virus for a very long time. Being diagnosed HIV positive was considered by many residents to be a death sentence and typically elicited shock and denial from residents who learn they are HIV positive. When the word HIV is mentioned, the usual retort is “this can never be my portion!”

It was this attitude that Elisha Nkorok was confronted with when he began providing HIV counselling and treatment support as a staff of the Comprehensive Health Centre (CHC), Nto Edino, a health facility supported by the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Strengthening Integrated Delivery of HIV/AIDS Services (SIDHAS) project. Elisha was among several health care workers in the facility trained by the project in 2013 to provide HIV counselling services and who continue to receive ongoing mentoring and supportive supervision from the SIDHAS team in Akwa Ibom State.  On a recent visit to Nto Edino in November 2017, the SIDHAS team met with Elisha to learn more about his experiences providing HIV services in this community.

“In the past, patients used to think all hope is lost when diagnosed HIV positive,” he said. “The training we received has helped us to manage such beliefs and convince people that an HIV diagnosis is not a death sentence as long as they adhere to taking their antiretroviral drugs (ARVs).”

Elisha recalled a time when a client who was very sick and emaciated came to the clinic for treatment. He counseled the client and offered an HIV test. The client’s family rejected the test and took her home. On a follow-up visit to the home, to provide further counselling and encourage the family to let her have an HIV test, he met the family praying to God to take her life. “They believed she had been bewitched and nothing could be done to save her life,” said Elisha. “That was when I had to step in.”

He explained that with her consent, he brought her to the clinic and tested her for HIV. She tested positive and after thorough post-test counseling and support, she was immediately placed on treatment with ARVs. Within a short time, she began responding well to the treatment and regained her health. That successful outcome, and several similar incidences, was key to reducing the stigma associated with HIV in the community. It marked a turning point in the relationship between the community and the clinic.

“Now when people respond negatively to an HIV diagnosis, we point them to the stories of clients who are now healthy after taking ARVs,” said Aniekan Etim Edet, the pharmacy focal person at the clinic.

The success stories from the HIV clinic has provided hope to not only those with HIV, but also others battling other ailments like malaria, who have become convinced that with proper care and treatment, they can overcome their ailments. “The success we see in managing HIV positive clients has made the hospital to bloom,” said Aniekan. “In the past, the patronage was low, but now, people from all over the community come to us to seek treatment for various ailments”.

The SIDHAS project, with funding from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through USAID, supports several facilities like CHC Nto Edino, in Akwa Ibom State, to provide life-saving antiretroviral treatment (ART) to people living with HIV. Healthcare workers in these facilities receive training, continuous onsite mentoring and support, and other technical assistance required to address stigma, provide high quality HIV testing services, and retain people on treatment. As of January 2018, CHC Nto Edino currently had 448 clients receiving ARV.

Mr. Elisha was full of gratitude for the support received from the SIDHAS project. In his words, “we in this community and especially this clinic, can only say thank you to USAID for bringing much hope to our community.”

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