Comfort Abu: Improving Health for People Living with HIV & AIDS in Kogi State, Nigeria

The Oba (King) of Isanlu, Dr. A.A. Ikuborije, presents Comfort Abu with an award. {Photo credit: MSH Nigeria.}Photo credit: MSH Nigeria.

Until recently, people living with HIV & AIDS in Isanlu Community in Nigeria’s Kogi state had difficulty accessing health services to manage their illnesses. Today things are very different, and much of that is credited to the persistence and perseverance of one woman, Comfort Omadu Abu.

Mrs. Abu is the program manager for the Kogi State AIDS Control Program. In January 2010, after completing a Leadership Development Program (LDP) facilitated by the USAID and PEPFAR-funded ProACT project, she realized that linking communities desirous of health services with potential service providers was crucial to address gaps in service provision. She therefore took on the personal mission of facilitating meetings and partnerships between such communities and potential service providers, to instigate HIV services in communities of need.  

She became increasingly active in this area, and has helped to set up 20 comprehensive HIV treatment centers in each local government in Kogi State. 

Observing the growing demand for HIV services in Isanlu, Mrs. Abu facilitated increased access to treatment and care services to the community by pushing for the posting of a doctor and other medical personnel to a facility which did not have a doctor prior to her intervention. She also introduced the community leaders to potential donors/service oriented projects, with productive outcomes. In November 2011, all of her hard effort paid off: she witnessed the opening of comprehensive HIV treatment services in General Hospital Isanlu, by an NGO, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Shortly after this, the hospital added antiretroviral therapy (ART) to the HIV services it provides.

On April 7, 2012, Mrs. Abu was presented with an award of excellence by the Oba (King) of Isanlu, Dr. A.A. Ikuborije, on behalf of the entire Isanlu community, for her invaluable contributions and service to the community. 

The award presentation was part of a larger event held to commemorate noteworthy achievements by outstanding members of the community. It was witnessed by local government officials and several members of the public.

Mr. Daniel Segun, National President of the Isanlu Progressive Union, noted at the ceremony: “Even though she’s not from this area, Mrs. Abu has shown a lot of love for the community by bringing an HIV/AIDS testing and treatment center to this town. In fact this couldn’t have come at a better time because HIV is a deadly disease and since the treatment center was set up in Isanlu, a lot of lives have been saved. There was no treatment center like this (previously), with Egbe, an hour drive from Isanlu, being the closest center, and what has been established here is the second largest in the state. Mrs Abu made sure that such a big project was brought to this society so that many lives can be saved.’’

Comfort Abu described her commitment this way, “A few years ago, I was told to suggest a site for HIV treatment, immediately General Hospital Isanlu came to my mind, because I know there are lot of people living in the area who are infected and or affected by the HIV/AIDS virus. There is a need for each and every state, community to have access to testing, care and support. We cannot restrict this to any particular place because the virus has no boundary.”

The Prevention Organizational Systems AIDS Care and Treatment (ProACT) Project is a USAID, PEPFAR-funded project that supports six state governments, including Kogi State, to operate 27 comprehensive HIV/AIDS treatment centers across Nigeria. The centers had enrolled over 26,000 clients in care and placed over 15,000 people on life-saving antiretroviral treatment.