Fellowship Program Helps Stem Spread of HIV in Nigeria

In just a few months, Christianah Temidayo Akerejola—known familiarly as Auntie D—saw the average number of people receiving HIV counseling and testing in her hospitals increase from an average of 10 per day to nearly 100 per day after participating in a Health Professionals’ Fellowship Program sponsored by USAID/Nigeria and designed and managed by MSH’s Nigeria Capacity Building Project under the Leadership, Management, and Sustainability (LMS) Program.

Counseling and testing are vital to stemming the HIV & AIDS epidemic. Widespread testing not only improves early diagnosis and helps patients receive lifesaving treatment, but it also helps to decrease stigma associated with HIV & AIDS and educate infected and uninfected patients alike on how to prevent the spread of the virus. HIV testing can also be an “entry point” for people to receive other critical health care services, such as prenatal care or immunizations for their children.

Auntie D was among the first nurse-fellows to graduate from the program, in June 2008. She and her peers completed a 65-day training course focused on building leadership and management skills and strengthening technical knowledge in HIV & AIDS prevention, treatment, care, and support. The training included sessions on counseling and testing, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and tuberculosis.

Leadership and Management for Health Impact

As the Assistant Director of the Kogi State Ministry of Health’s HIV/AIDS Unit in Lokoja District, and the supervisor of nurses in hospitals throughout district, Auntie D found her clinical knowledge about HIV & AIDS crucial to her job. However, she feels that the leadership and management training was the key to increasing the number of people who received counseling and testing for HIV.

Realizing that there needed to be a dramatic improvement in the nurse-patient relationship, Auntie D said, “We had to throw away our old spectacles and get new ones.”

It is this improved communication that she feels enabled her unit to increase HIV counseling and testing from 10 clients a day to almost 100.
 [Christianah Temidayo Akerejola—known familiarly as Auntie D–in Nigeria. Photo by MSH staff.]Christianah Temidayo Akerejola—known familiarly as Auntie D–in Nigeria. Photo by MSH staff.

In the Fellowship Program, Auntie D identified a vision for her HIV/AIDS Unit: increased patient flow. The combination of classroom work and practical application helped her to realize this vision. During her three-week practicum, Auntie D took the theories and skills she had developed in the classroom and applied them—with support from a mentor—in other hospitals, prisons, orphanages, and support groups for people living with HIV & AIDS.

After returning to her post, Auntie D shared her new clinical and leadership knowledge and skills, applying both with such success that other Nigerian Ministry of Health units asked her to conduct training for their staff as well. Since graduating nine months ago, Auntie D has personally trained 95 nurses, and her classmates from the fellowship program have provided training for 1,000 colleagues and patients—who can go on to make similarly dramatic inroads in fighting HIV & AIDS in Nigeria.

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