SPECIAL REPORT: How UNICEF-AYP Programme Reshapes Our Lives – Beneficiaries

By Alex Uangbaoje Kaduna

The Adolescents & Young People (AYP) intervention programme is one of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) supported programs that aims at scaling up HIV combination in terms prevention, treatment and care services for adolescents and young people and pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers in 7 Local Governments Areas (LGAs) of Chikun, Igabi, Lere, Kagarko, Birnin-Gwari, Jaba & Jema’a in Kaduna State.

The programme seeks to among other things; increase the number of adolescents and young persons (10-24) years who know their HIV status from 10% to 40% in 7 LGA’s by December 2018, increase the proportion of sexually active adolescents (15-19) years using condoms from 30% to 50% in 7 LGA’s by December 2018. Increase the percentage of HIV positive adolescents (10-24) years initiated on Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) from 1% to 21% in the 7 LGA’s by December 2018 and to also increase the number of primary/secondary schools providing Family Life and HIV Education (FLHE) from 25% to 45% in 7 LGAs by December 2018.

Since inception of the programme, UNICEF has been working in collaboration with the Kaduna State AIDS Control Agency (KADSACA), and other partners including the media in order to reduce and even eliminate HIV to its barest minimum.

In this special report, our Correspondent, spoke with beneficiaries of the intervention programme in Chikun LGA and examine how it has impacted their lives.

Following the December 2018 target by UNICEF, to ensure that 10% to 40% young people in 7 LGA’s in Kaduna State, knows their HIV status and increase the proportion of sexually active adolescents (15-19) years using condoms from 30% to 50%, amongst other things, a high number of young people in Chikun LGA, said their attitude towards sex has changed drastically.

In a chat with some AYPs and pregnant/breastfeeding mothers in Nasarawa and Sabon Tasha communities in Chikun LGA, they testified of how the AYP programme has helped reshaped their attitude and also impacted them with the needed sex education to plan for a better future.

Mercy Sunday is a 19 years old girl, a Senior Secondary School leaver, who is benefitting from the AYP free testing counseling programme, said, “i used to be afraid of doing HIV test, two years ago, I fell sick and I was taken to the hospital and HIV test was one of the test conducted on me.

“I used to have sex without condom, so immediately I came back from hospital after some time, i had sex with my boyfriend without condom, immediately I started feeling somehow, the next day I saw some of this people (AYP testers) doing HIV test in our area, so I met them and explained to them why I came.

“They did the test for me and counselled me and asked me to come back after 30 days so I can do it again, so i went after two months and am still negative and ever since then, I have not missed their outreaches and I stop having sex without condom, I even collect condoms for my boyfriend.”

Another girl, Comfort Ephraim, 19, said though she has not had sex before, but the knowledge has has gotten from the AYP outreaches have really helped her in guiding against unwanted sex.

She explained that, “I have been attending their outreaches, they kept teaching us on how to always keep safe despite the pressure from men, and how to handle Sharp objects to avoid contacting HIV.

“I am here today again to do anoher HIV test and my advice for young people like me is to always come out and take advantage of this so they can know what to do at the right time.”

21-years old John Jacob, a boy, who also spoke, said he only used condom once before meeting the AYP testers, adding, “after listening to their lecture, I made up my mind to abstain instead of doing it without condom. I thank God am negative.

Mary Paul 23, who summoned courage for the first time to check her HIV status, said she has never used condom before, because she believed that her boyfriend is free of HIV, but after after listening to the AYP facilitators, she became convinced that trust is not one of the considerations to know positive people.

“My boyfriend and I have been doing it without condoms, but this lecture has opened my eyes. This is the first time I am doing HIV test, I used to be afraid and ashamed to go to where they do it, but am very confident.

“From today, sex without condoms has ended, if he (her boyfriend) is not ready to use condom next time, I will runaway from him. Thank God am ok, nothing will make me risk my life ever again. I thank UNICEF for send this people to our community. Mary added.

24-years old, Samuel Auta, is one of the AYP Demand Creators in the LGA, gave testimony of how the programme has impacted his life, saying, “as a volunteer, the programme has impacted my life in the sense that, before now, I do not have any knowledge of HIV, but as we speak, I teach other young people about it.

“It has also help me to be bold, I use to be very timid, but I can now stand in front of any crowd to address them. It has equally help to stop me from engaging with different girls, because I now know the effect and dangers.”

Another Demand Creator, Marryam Adamu, 24, who began the volunteering work since 2017, explained the at initial stages, most of the AYPs always show resistance and stubbornness, but majority of them ended up cooperating with them.

She said the programme has boasted her confidence to speak in public, especially to young people, because she was a very shy person. And the fact that most young people now look up to her and trust her with their private sex life is an attestation that the AYP programme has done well for her as individual.

Sharing her experience on the AYP Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT), of HIV, a breastfeeding mother, Blessing Caleb, 35 years old, said because of the way the programme is being managed, she has no cause to be feeling that she is living with HIV.

According to her, ” when I started accessing the PMTCT service, I discovered that the drugs were too strong for me because I was feeling some pains, but now am used to it. I gave birth to my baby successfully, and she is HIV negative.

“I always encourage women around who are ashamed to subscribe to the PMTCT service that HIV is better the diabetics. When I was told that I have contacted HIV, me and my husband went back to the PHC, and were counselled, my husband never felt bad about it despite being negative.”

On her part, PMTCT Focal Person in Chikun LGA, Obanewo Fibi, said most families get to know their HIV status through PMTCT, saying, “the programme is a gate to knowledge of HIV.

She the PHC Sabon Tasha, PMTCT centre only record three positive children out of the hundreds of children who’s mothers are accessing the service since 2007.

“Some the women once they discovered they are positive, don’t come back to the centre, those who come back, don’t only stopped at knowing their status, but also take advantage to enjoy the intervention. They normally all feel bad at the beginning, but they later accept it in good fate, yet about one percent would think it’s spiritual, but as we continue to talk to them, they get to understand the picture.”

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