First Published by Cameroon's lone English Language Daily Newspaper The Guardian Post 

Parents of children living with HIV/AIDS in Ndop, Ngoketunjia Division have expressed discontent with the eventual closure    of the “Active Search for Pediatric HIV/AIDS  (ASPA)”, project from the Division.
 Launched in Ndop District Hospital in June 2016 by R4D International Foundation (a  Yaounde-based NGO), the ASPA project aimed at promoting access to HIV services among children and adolescents in Cameroon.
Talking to The Guardian Post recently in Ndop, parents of children living with HIV/AIDS from Bamessing, Bafanji, Balikumbat, Bambalang, Babessi, Babungo all neighbouring communities to Ndop and from neighbouring towns such as Bamenda, recognised with satisfaction the efforts made by the ASPA project in accompanying them receive pediatric HIV care.



Ndop District Hospital ASPA project site

“Since they came, they have been helping us a lot. When the children come for their medicines they give them milk, rice, transport back to the village. They were really assisting us because sometimes we used to borrow transport money and when they come back we repay it. They were really helping us. I am very worried that they will be leaving because the assistance I used to receive I will no longer receive it,” Josephine (real name withheld), a parent of an HIV/AIDS infected child from Bamessing, said
Acknowledging assistance received from ASPA, another parent Patricia (real names withheld), from Babungo, noted that “I have not heard that they are leaving but if they are to leave I will not really be happy because they have been helping us very much. But if they must go I can ask that they pray for us that God should send some people like them so they can come and continue to help us.”
To have been able to create an impact, the  project Research Officer (RO), said they worked in two directions; the treatment centre and the outpatient department of the Ndop district hospital which was their base.
“For the project being Active Search for Pediatric HIV/AIDS, we were actively searching for children. At the treatment centre we were targeting children who are vulnerable, that is children of HIV positive parents,” Mbuh Salioh Mbinyui explains.
Accessing the activity with respect to the project strategies in a not too friendly environment, the RO added “it wasn’t easy at all. You know with the stigma as concerns HIV it is not easy but we used other means that could make it easier. These included talking with the parents and helping them to understand the danger in which their children are found. We even reimbursed their transportation to bring the children to the hospital for testing and each parent who could bring a child we calculated the amount that has been used to and from the hospital. The children were tested for free. And any child found HIV positive we immediately prepared them for linkage to care and subsequently we were giving nutritional support to the children to ensure that they were fed.”
Kenyenyen Wilson Njifenda, the project Data Manager, regretted that during the project execution, getting the children to take their drugs on time and parents accepting to test    their  children  were the major challenges.

Dr. Kwa Jospeh Kedze, Director, Ndop District Hospital

The Director of the Ndop District Hospital (Dr Kwa Joseph Kedze) explained that prior to the arrival of ASPA project in the hospital in June 2016, “most children came to the hospital already sick. Most often when they are already in the AIDS phase and bring them out is very difficult most of the time we lost the children. We concluded that we were not actively managing these kids because we received them at the advance stage.”
Dr Kwa attributed  this on the fact that many pregnant women stayed away during the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV (PMTC)   programme and consequently delivered HIV infected children. Worst still the Director regrets “even after delivery they didn’t bring them to the hospital because they did not understand what some of the children were presenting.  Some of them even thought it was witchcraft.”
As to what difference ASPA made during the 24 months of implementation, Dr Kwa states “ASPA came with active search; produced us the means to be able to do it. We have been working with three staff. When we started every morning a lecture was given for the need to actively search for infected children. So all the children passing 0-20 years we actively tested and we could pick out some of them we did not know thanks to the ASPA project”.
Though being a management center for HIV for some time, no statistics were readily available at the Ndop District hospital as relates pediatric HIV/AIDS.   During the ASPA project lifespan, over 3659 children were tested, 71 confirmed positive and 44 linked to care and treatment.
“The children diagnosed had another need that even the state doesn’t compliment; the nutrition aspect of it. To bring out children to make them healthy it means that they are on antiretroviral and they have the nutritional support. ASPA acted on the nutrition part and provided 2500 packets of nutri-kits; that was motivating to the parents to bring the children,” Dr Kwa noted
Corroborating the Director on the quality of work, Sama Bella, Unit Head of the HIV care and treatment centre, regretted the departure of ASPA staff who played a vital role in making her active. 
Dr Yumo Habakkuk,  ASPA Principal Investigator,
R4D International/Yaounde, Cameroon & CIH-LMU/Munich, Germany.
 “The project has been collaborating with us ever since they came and before then we had a small programme with the children because we don’t actually receive the parents with the children so we had special clinics for them,” the Unite Head said, adding that ASPA also took care of the children who were already under their care, giving them transport reimbursement and nutritional kid for a balance diet.
According to the  project coordinator, Ndenkeh N. Jackson Jr,  the ASPA was implemented  simultaneously in Ndop, Batibo   Abong Mbang and Limbe Regional Hospital. With the success of this project, he expressed   the hope that all the infrastructures and the project spirit they have left in Ndop  will help in the continuation of the active search for Pediatric HIV/AIDS.
It, however, remains uncertain if another phase of the project will be implemented in future despite the high demand for the project coordination in Ndop.
Initiated by Dr. Yumo Habakkuk (Research Fellow at the R4D International Foundation, Yaoundé and at the Center for  International Health at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany), the ASPA project is funded by the German Foundation "Else-Kroener Fresenius" and the implementation is jointly supervised by Dr Yumo Habakkuk, Dr Sieleunou Isidore (Research Fellow at R4D International Yaoundé and at the Institute of Global Health, University of Montreal, Canada) and Dr Sabi Titus (Pediatrician, Camformedics e.V, Germany).
Derick BAKAH

Derick BAKAH

Bakah Derick is a Broadcast Presenter and Multimedia specialist with focus on sharing with the rest of the world the daily happenings in the Northwest Region of Cameroon. You can contact us on +237 675460750 or debakah2004@gmail.com.

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