Voluntary Counseling Confidential Testing (VCCT) organized under the NLC-TUC workplace initiative has proved popular among workers in the Federal Capital Territory in Nigeria where HIV prevalence is considered to be third highest in the country. The outreach activities carried out under the Building Workplace Capacity to Combat HIV/AIDS Project funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) have been instrumental in overcoming workers' reluctance and encouraging them to go for testing. The Nigeria Labour Congress and its six affiliates participating in the Project launched in July 2009 have been remarkably successful in allaying fears among trade union members of the possible consequences of positive diagnosis.
The Jikwoyi Primary Health Care Centre, Abuja, and VCCT Facility at Gwarinpa Hospital have seen a steady increase in the number of workers coming for testing since their opening in July 2010. By the end of December 2011, a total of 18,586 people had attended the clinics and 1,025 had been diagnosed with HIV (5.52%) and been referred to appropriate medical institutions for treatment, care and support. This is more than twice the number of people, originally expected to attend the clinics during the entire two-year period from July 2010-June 2012. The significant increase in attendance was primarily due to the wide publicity given by the Nigeria Labour Congress and its affiliates to VCCT facilities through lunch-time information and education sessions organized at workplaces under the Project. The introduction of the Prevention from Mother to Child Transmission (PMCT) has added to the popularity. The Head of Public Health Department of Federal Capital Territory Abuja who visited the VCCT sites on a number of occasions has commended the initiative by the trade union movement. Counseling was also made available to those attending the facilities at the two sites. A two-day Peer Educators' workshop was held in February 2011 with a view to educating workers in the health sector on prevention, care and support and condom distribution.
Visits to Hospitals by Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS
In an effort to raise awareness of the need for treatment, care and support and facilitate access to services, the Project organised visits to hospitals for the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN). The umbrella organisation which defends the rights and interests of PLWHA in the Federal Capital Territory has collaborated with the NLC and the six participating unions in the past and was also involved in the development of the Project. The ten hospital visits arranged under the Project made it possible to overcome reluctance and fears, ascertain the availability of appropriate and adequate services, identify the gaps and seek remedial action.
The NEPWHAN which attended some partnership meetings had raised the issue of People living with HIV/AIDS not able to access hospital facilities even where the services were free due to the lack of awareness of the available services, stigma and poverty. The NLC-TUC Project is due to be completed by the end of June this year.
Issued: 3 February, 2012