By Samuel Oyadongha
Yenagoa â€” Five hospitals in Abia, Rivers, Delta, Edo and Bayelsa states are providing high quality HIV/AIDS services under the Niger Delta AIDS Response (NiDAR) project initiated by Shell Petroleum Develop-ment Company (SPDC).
The facilities, located at Owaza (Abia), Erhoike (Delta), Oben (Edo), Edagberi (Rivers), and Otuasega (Bayelsa), offer the only life-saving chance for people living with HIV/AIDS, providing them with comprehensive counselling, care and treatment.
Since its inception in 2007, the NiDAR project has provided testing and counselling services to more than 9,000 individuals at the five hospitals, of whom 5,003 were female.
More than 2,131 pregnant women enrolled for the prevention of Mother-to-Child HIV transmission programme, while 1,429 people who tested positive to the disease were given free anti-HIV and tuberculosis treatment.
SPDC Regional Community Health Manager, Dr. Babatunde Fakunle, made this known during activities held in Shell locations and offices as part of celebrations marking World AIDS Day.
He said, â€œcommunity health is very important to SPDC. Our vision is for a Niger Delta that is populated by healthy and prosperous people that are contributing significantly to the socio-economic development of their communities.â€
SPDC worked closely with communities, national and state agencies for control of AIDS, federal and state ministries of health and an international NGO, Family Health International (FHI) in the implementation of NiDAR.
The programme enabled the upgrade of the five hospitals and their respective management systems along with training of medical staff.
Some $3.5 million was spent on the upgrade alone, while 244 staff were trained in HIV care.
Dr. Fakunle said: â€œThe secret of the success of NiDAR is that the communities are in charge. Each of the hospitals is managed by a committee headed by a nominee of the community.
â€œThe committee is responsible for the efficient management of the hospital and provision of the required services. For example, at Owaza, the hospital is supported by a group of people living with HIV/AIDS called Godâ€™s Intervention Support Group. They have been very helpful in addressing the problem of stigma and discrimination.
â€œSPDC is working to scale up the project in 2010 by involving more partners and taking on additional health facilities and medical staff in other parts of the Niger Delta.
â€œIn June this year, the Washington-based Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria recognised the NiDAR initiative with an international award for Partnership in Collective Action.
â€œSPDC has also sponsored production of seven short films and 26 radio drama episodes, to create awareness on HIV/AIDS, especially among the youths.
â€œSPDC has continued to work in partnership to implement other health programmes that include Immunisation, Malaria Control, Strategic Health Communication, Community Health Outreach and Sustainable Health care financing. Total expenditure on community health in 2008 was about five million dollars.â€