By Charles Kumolu
Despite the increasing awareness campaigns by the government and relevant stakeholders, People living with HIV/AIDS are still ostracised by many uninformed persons in the country.

This discrimination has affected the psyche of these Nigerians, hence many of them, out of fear of being stigmatised, refuse to disclose their status. Benue State is believed to have the highest number of persons living with the virus.

No wonder then, some concerned stakeholders have launched various measures to stem the spread of the virus in the nation’s food basket.

The latest onslaught  is being waged with an innovative approach called  Enhancing Nigerian Capacity for AIDS Prevention (ENCAP).   VanguardFeatures,VF, gathered that the project is being undertaken by Consulting LLP with Ideas Changing Lives (AED) as collaborating partners.

HIV testing centre

The USAID is also providing funding for the project which is to the tune of N1.5 billion. Disclosing this in Markudi during the launch of the project, ENCAP’s Chief of Party, Dr. Victoria Agbara noted that the objectives are to increase the number of young adults given the minimum HIV prevention package.

She added that it will decrease HIV transmission, and local capacity to implement, monitor and evaluate prevention programs.

“ENCAP is a flagship capacity building project for USAID and focuses more on depth, quality, and sustainability for small community based organisations that are usually overlooked for external funding.

It reflects the fact that government agencies, Nigerian organizations and communities need to be the driving force in the response, and that there must be strong resources to contribute to that response in every part of  the country, not just in Abuja or State capitals,” she noted. She further added that by selecting capacity development and HIV prevention programming, the organization hopes to achieve more effective, targeted and coordinated response. ”

By focusing on smaller/medium size organizations that are usually overlooked for external funding, promoting networking, collaboration and pooling of resources, we would have ensured optimal effectiveness and promotion of inclusiveness

“The capacity building will include long term mentoring and coaching from technical experts, participatory assessment to analyse organizational strengths and areas for improvement to meet the unique needs of each organization.”

On the neglect of small organizations when it comes to   funding, she observed that that the project will carry the groups along. According to her,  it will help in achieving more effective and coordinated response.

“By focusing on smaller/medium size organizations that are usually overlooked for external funding, promoting networking, collaboration and pooling of resources, we would have ensured optimal effectiveness and promotion of inclusiveness by selecting capacity development and HIV precention programming.

The organization hopes to achive more effective, targeted and coordinated response.The capacity building will include long term mentoring and coaching from technical experts, participatory assessment to analyse organizational strengths and areas for improvement to meet the unique needs of each organization,”Agbara added.

Also speaking at the forum, Special Adviser to Governor of Benue state on HIV and other Communicable Diseases, Mrs. Maria Idu observed that the project is apt, as it focuses on the youth that are most underserved in HIV/AIDS prevention programmes.

She particulary pointed out that empahsis should be directed at higher educational institutions.

Although over 95 percent of Nigerians are HIV negative, experts at the event maintain that prevention remains the most important strategy to stem the growth and reverse the HIV pandemic in the absence of a cure.

However, not much of this is effectively taking place  now.

VF further gathered that ENCAP’s capacity building focuses less on formal training methodologies and more on practical, applied opportunities to translate new skills and information into new systems and processes that are actually institutionalized within organizations and communities.

These will address underserved populations, unmet needs and  ensure the sustainability of the intervention.

This was corroborated by Margaret Shelleng, Regional Coordinator, FCT and Benue, ENCAP. “This aligns with national guidelines and strategy which encouraes responsiveness and promotes decentralisation of interventions through the adoption of best practices and improvements in programme design,” she added.

It was gathered that the project will be undertaken over a five year  period with 25 local partner organizations across five states The states include Bayelsa, Rivers, Benue, Taraba,  Ebonyi and the FCT.

“The project is collaborating with NACA, SACAs, umbrella organizations and other partners working in target states to explore synergies and maximize the efficiency of interventions.

In Benue state, local project partners include Burufu Women Against HIV, Education as a Vaccine Against AIDS, Health and Development Organization, Society for Life and Human Development Initiative, GreenWatch Initiative and Jireh Doo Foundation,” Shelleng stated.

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