By Victoria Ojeme
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) says its newly funded $20 million agreement with Heartland Alliance, would go a long way toward strengthening Nigeria’s efforts at controlling HIV/AIDs in the country.
Steven Haykin, USAID Country Director said this in Abuja during the closing of the 10-year Integrated Most Risk-Populations HIV Prevention Project (IMHPP).
IMHPP is a USAID-funded project that is being implemented by Heartland Alliance Nigeria.
According to Haykin, the new five-year 20-million-dollar agreement with Heartland International Alliance, in Nigeria will broaden its support and interventions to at-risk and not-easy-to-reach populations.
He said that the support of the project by USAID is as a result of the success recorded by Heartland Alliance International which activities reached more than 890,000 individuals with quality HIV prevention intervention interventions.
“This progamme is part of a very large U.S. government collaboration with the government of Nigeria and the many states to control HIV/AIDs in Nigeria
“And this programme is especially important because it is reaching hard-to-reach populations that are essential to winning the fight against HIV/AIDs.
“This programme deals with the groups that are the most stigmatized and I believe that the general stigma is beginning to subside and that is helping us as people become educated about the disease.
“And It is helping us to reach epidemic control.
“We have just signed a new five-year 20 million dollar agreement with Heartland International Alliance local partner in Nigeria.
“The programme began to reach out to more and more groups as it kept going and so, we want to keep the broad inclusion of the programme.
“There is the first set of services that includes safety and protection for stigmatised populations and that is important to maintain,” Haykin said.
Haykin added that since 2009, the IMHPP project had provided quality and stigma-free HIV prevention services to key populations to the provision of comprehensive services in 25 clinics located in seven states.
He said that the clinics were scattered across the FCT, Akwa-Ibom, Cross Rivers, Lagos, Benue, Nasarawa, and Rivers states.
Haykin said that the USAID activity implemented by Heartland Alliance International had built the capacity of key population, organisations, and strengthened spaces to enable civil societies to provide HIV services to key populations in Nigeria.
He disclosed that trough the one stop shop service delivery model, the USAID placed over 23,000 people among key population on treatment, the highest ever in any HIV programme in Nigeria.
He said that USAID engaged extensively with key stakeholders like the Nigerian Police, National Human Rights Commission, leaders and various states leaders.
The USAID Mission Director however commended the efforts of Heartland Alliance Nigeria on its successes who despite the many challenges persevered for many of its beneficiaries.
In her remarks, Ms Sandosham Surita, Executive Director, Heartland Alliance International (HIA) said that the organisation was proud to have achieved its goals in the IMHPP.
She also commended the HIA local partner in Nigeria for its resilience despite challenges like the same-sex prohibition bill by the Nigerian Parliament which did not hinder their assistance to key populations.
Surita said that for HIA, achieving its goals includes creating what is really important; a safe and enabling environment for the people they have supported.
According to her, part of Heartland Alliances’ achievements include the fact that many of the organisations they help develop have received funding from other donors.