Mary Umoh: 'Ambassador' for MSH at International AIDS Society Conference

Mary Umoh: 'Ambassador' for MSH at International AIDS Society Conference

Mary Umoh, Community Care Specialist in Nigeria, MSH poster presenter at IAS Conference 2011

I would like to introduce you to Mary Umoh, my colleague and friend, who attended the 6th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2011) in Rome, Italy. Mary was one of the winners of an internal MSH abstract contest for staff whose abstracts had already been accepted by IAS for presentation at the conference in Rome. Mary and two other winners were awarded a scholarship to attend the July 2011 conference in Rome, exhibit their abstracts, attend the conference’s scientific, technical and policy sessions, and network with global peers.

Mary had never traveled outside of her native Nigeria. She has four active sons who keep her extremely busy. She said she was ecstatic to have the opportunity to travel overseas to attend the conference and act as an “Ambassador” of MSH and of the Prevention and Organizational Systems – AIDS Care and Treatment (ProACT) project.

Nigeria ProACT is a USAID-funded project that places a strong emphasis on building the capacity of government and civil society organization to strengthen health and HIV & AIDS systems for delivery of integrated health and HIV & AIDS and TB services. ProACT currently implements its work in the six project states of Kogi, Niger, Kwara, Kebbi, Taraba, and Adamawa.

Mary serves as a Community Care Specialist with ProACT and has over twelve years of experience in public health and HIV service to her country. She supports the State Government in delivering HIV/AIDS services to people, alongside capacity building, community health systems strengthening and mentoring of health staff in primary and secondary facilities to deliver HIV/AIDS services. Mary also renders services to orphans and vulnerable children in the Kwara State in the various communities where MSH works.

At IAS, Mary proudly presented her poster, “Referral Networks as a Model for Increasing Access to Quality HIV/AIDS and TB Services in Kwara State, Nigeria” (PDF), and answered questions from conference delegates. Mary also exhibited posters produced by our colleagues.

Mary made the most of the experience, attending as many conference sessions and workshops as she could. She said the highlight of the conference sessions and discussions was, “How we can address the key barriers to HIV prevention, decentralization of services to primary health centers, that is taking health care to the people and also identifying service delivery models in the community.”

Mary learned many lessons and best practices that she will share with her ProACT colleagues and would like to integrate into her work. For example, she would like to bring this theme back to her colleagues in the field:  “Community involvement and participation is important in the success of HIV prevention. Also we have to adopt approaches based on the needs of the community.”

Sara Holtz is a Senior Technical Officer at MSH.

Related Reading

  • "Mary Umoh learns about breaking the silence around stigma and discrimination" -- one of several Stories from IAS 2011, highlighting delegates' personal experiences at the conference.