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Taking critical care into communities
Over three million people are living with HIV in Nigeria. Hundreds of thousands die from AIDS each year.1 In the oil-rich Niger Delta, many people are too poor to make long journeys to clinics or to pay for tests and treatment. One programme takes tests into remote communities and provides support by engaging local health workers.
Becky counsels clients who test positive for HIV and advises them on healthy living.
Becky is a 36-year-old mother of two who lives with her husband and family in Aba, Abia State in the Niger Delta, Nigeria. Nine years ago Becky tested positive for HIV. “After the result I was transported home in an open-topped truck and left without even basic care,” she says. “I thought I was going to die.”
Some villagers believed Becky was possessed by spirits. Her husband and in-laws deserted her. Finally Becky’s aunt took her to hospital where she stayed for months.
Thanks to the treatment she received, Becky is living a healthy life. Now she counsels others living with HIV.
Moving in the right direction
SPDC workers take medical equipment and supplies into isolated Niger Delta communities
The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC) together with the Nigerian government and non-governmental agencies launched a health-care programme, Health-in-Motion, in 2007. The programme, financed by SPDC and its joint venture partners2, takes free medical services to remote rural communities in the Niger Delta, where many people live on less than $2 a day. Medical teams visit different locations each month, spending around a week on site. For people living in the most isolated locations, SPDC has donated boats which transport patients to clinics and follow up on the treatment they receive in their communities.
The programme also gives nurses new skills, such as cancer screening and patient counselling. In turn, they pass on their knowledge to others, making the most of limited resources. This includes training villagers to become health workers.
Becky followed several training courses run by SPDC and non-governmental organisations such as Family Health International. As a counsellor on the visiting team, she encourages people to take advantage of the HIV tests and provides information about the virus. Some patients who test positive will not even tell their families, for fear of being ostracised. Becky is among those who provide ongoing support.
Tornu, a 45-year-old shop manager, is one of Becky’s clients. He tested positive after his village chief in Bomu, Gokana Local Government Area, Rivers State, told everyone to visit the mobile clinic. He was afraid, but Becky explained the facts. She also advised him to give up alcohol and eat healthily to boost his immune system. “I talk with Becky almost every week and now I feel happier about the future,” he says.
Better health cover
The mobile clinic also offers immunisation against tuberculosis, along with eye and dental care. “We want to bring up the standard of all medical intervention,” says Dr Ufuoma Ovwigho who helps deliver the programme for SPDC. “By integrating HIV testing into a range of services we aim to reduce the associated stigma and encourage more people to come forward.”
Since the programme launched it has reached 110 communities across seven states in the delta where SPDC operates. In 2011 it reached over 140,000 people and the following year was highly commended in the Global Business Coalition on Health Awards: “Health-in-Motion exemplifies the powerful impact the private sector is making on global health,” said the panel of judges.
Thanks to the successful programme partnership and integrated care on offer, village chiefs welcome the mobile clinics. “Health-in-Motion has made a great difference to my life,” says Becky. “And I hope I’ve improved the lives of others struggling to accept their HIV status.
1 UN AIDS
2 Agip, Total and NNPC
Health-in-Motion complements the Niger Delta AIDS response programme which supports clinics and help