PRIORITY # 1
From the beginning, the task of preventing infection HIV has been a priority in programming efforts. Since HIV is what causes AIDS this priority was occupied so much of our time. The grassroots population in the rural villages needed to be informed quickly to avoid a total disaster from happening. The first order on the GECHAAN agenda was to head out into the most remote areas to share important information that would prevent infection of many people.
The culturally appropriate protocol is to make the chiefs compound the first stop on the way into town and greet him and his elders, inform him of your purpose for the visit, and let him know what the message is. No one had to tell anyone that people were dying from a disease that was preventable. They were eager to hear information that would prevent persons from becoming infected in the first place.
This initial courtesy call that gives leaders dignity while it usually gives us the permission to help.
Be Faithful To Your Family Program
Being faithful to your spouse is the most helpful behavioral practice for couples who want to remain free from HIV/AIDS. It would be difficult to find a couple that would desire to suffer from an incurable disease.
When GECHAAN presented a seminar on, How To Talk To Your Children About HIV/AIDS, many questions and comments were made that indicated the sessions were useful. One of the most interesting questions was, so how can we make this teaching relevant to our family and the community in which we live? Part of the teaching encouraged couples to talk to each other about this topic before proceeding to their children. The impact of teaching about communicating and discussing such sensitive topics with your spouse created a new phenomenon among couples in this region. Couples demanded more teaching and training so GECHAAN staff prepared curriculum and asked community leaders to lead small groups on the topic of Be Faithful to Your Family as another program to challenge the epidemic. Several couples took their observations to another level by introducing the concept that in talking as couples they would gain strength to remain faithful to their spouse. Now there are nearly 50 Be Faithful Groups functioning throughout GECHAAN locations. Uniquely, couples from all backgrounds and religions are eager to participate. The theme of these groups is healthy behavior for you and your family.
Child Protection from Abduction/Child Labor/Abuse
Nigerian Child Protection Act defines a child as under the age of 18, declaring children should be subjected to abuse, neglect, torture, inhuman punishment or discrimination of any kind. Yet many children are still at risk of these injustices. Communities have been united concerned with security and demonstrate a genuine interest in the well being of children in teaching them on these matters.
Emergency Infant Care
New-infants orphaned at birth receive special attention when brought to attention by a member of the family. Generous individuals have donated money to buy baby formula and other needed supplies. Likewise, clothing and blankets have been donated for infant care and comfort. Whatever the situation we see the child once a week to confirm that the child well and thriving. In some cases, a child may be placed in foster care for a period of time while permanent arrangements can be made.
Seminars on the spread of HIV have been presented to school personnel, Christian and Muslim teachers, PTA members, and parents.
Secondary school students compete in debates and HIV/AIDS knowledge, and participate in HIV prevention dramas. This has created a higher interest in learning more of the disease.
Sessions with principals and teachers were helpful in identifying the importance of parents and educators in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
NYSC is working with the Nigerian Youth Service Corp university graduates in doing their required year of community service. They actively participate with GEHCAAN as Peer Educators on HIV/AIDS. The NYSC personnel also conduct awareness visits to villages along with HIV testing, counseling, and testing.
Fellowship of Christian Students is active in many secondary schools providing weekend activities and retreats for youth open to hearing the Gospel and willing to participate in premarital sexual abstinence clubs.
Thrive Alive is a movement primarily made of youth who have graduated from secondary school but cannot afford to apply for university education. This is a difficult period of life for these youth and they are often at risk for HIV infection.
Scholarships are given to orphaned children who have the academic credentials and desire to attend a school of higher education and have. CANADA Cares was selected on the basis of their incredible concern and generosity exhibited for Nigerian youth. Currently, there are three students enrolled.
Orphaned and Vulnerable Children
Focused on orphans and vulnerable children in villages and towns throughout the region where GECHAAN has a presence. The number of orphaned children during the epidemic was stunning. The need assessments indicated larger numbers than were first predicted. After a pilot project done to test how the average villager would feel about a foster care program indicated support for such an initiative.
The main purpose of the program was to provide shelter, proper nutrition, education, legal protection, health care, and psychosocial support. Care givers and Foster Care Parents are volunteers who graciously want to do their part in dealing with this part of the recovery process. As the region of our work increased the number of children increased. Now there are 15,000 children in the program with over 7000 volunteers taking care of them. We are so grateful for Nigerian families who are willing to help the children in their time of need.
Special Projects to Meet Human Need
IMPACT LIVES – Supplements for Malnourished Children & Pregnant Women. When poverty reaches a certain level a shortage of food may follow which creates suffering and pain among the population. When parents are ill for extended periods of time children may not be fed properly with nutritious food that builds their bodies. Severely malnourished children become weak and unstable. IMPACT LIVES is an organization based in the Minneapolis, MN that coordinates the supply, packaging, and shipping of food to Gembu for distribution.
Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission
The Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission of the HIV is very important and a critical part of coping with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The women are taken through the prenatal care process at the Lifeline Centre but since this is an outpatient facility they are referred to other health facilities for delivery while returning to GECHAAN lifeline Centre for anti-natal care and follow up.
With careful monitoring of the pregnancy and preparation for delivery of the child, the likelihood of the child has been significantly reduced. Medical research has done well in analyzing how the child may become infected and has made much progress in PMTCT.
In many parts of the world, grandmothers are often called upon to take care of their orphaned grandchildren! Nigeria is no exception to this phenomenon especially since the onset of the HIV/ADIS epidemic. The global statistic says that 50% of children orphaned because of HIV/AIDS are being cared for by grandparents. A large percentage of the grandmothers are widowed and because of cultural traditions they are not in possession of a home which generates many other challenges for them.
Senior citizens in abroad responded to the need and contributed generously united with the challenge of building a home for grandmothers in Nigeria. Since the inception of the program, GECHAAN has facilitated the construction of 11 what we call, Grandma Houses. We lead villagers to contribute their time and energy toward the projects which have generated lifted the community spirit many different ways.
People Living With HIV/AIDS Support Groups
HIV/AIDS stigmas do not make it easy to form a group of HIV-positive people in rural villages. Patients were not eager to come together for meetings or discussions when other villagers knew of their HIV status. Finally, village communities were convinced that isolating a patient or running away from an infected person is not advisable.
Gender Equality Campaign
A village to village gender equality campaign may seem like a waste of time. For centuries, this male-dominated culture took pride in the control of the female population. GECHAAN networked with the UN Women to promote human rights and gender equality. The emphasis laid the groundwork to establish small business cooperatives among women in their neighborhoods. Furthermore, it enabled efforts to teach couples how to talk with their spouse and children about HIV/AIDS prevention.
Jauro, a chief, initiated HIV/AIDS prevention committees in every village in his domain. To our surprise, every committee had a woman and a youth included in it. The movement to include women in the process of making difficult decisions began to empower them in the battle against HIV/AIDS. In most villages this is unprecedented.
Neighborhood Couples: Be Faithful Groups
Be Faithful Groups is a development that emerged out of gender equality training. Several couples took their observations to another level by introducing the concept that in talking as couples they would gain strength to remain faithful to their spouse. Now there are nearly 50 Be Faithful Groups functioning throughout GECHAAN locations. Uniquely, couples from all backgrounds and religions are eager to participate. The theme of these groups is healthy behavior for you and your family.
Grants to Community Development Organization (CBO)
Fourteen CBOs have been developed by community organizations to address ongoing issues related to the current epidemic. Empowering communities will enable them to care for the multitudes of orphaned children.
Voices of Hope Radio
The radio broadcast is a half hour program aired every Saturday morning on the local TSBS (Taraba State Broadcasting Service) in Gembu and beyond. Local religious leaders, medical personnel, and GECHAAN staff are presenters on selected topics. Through this broadcast, the message of HIV/AIDS prevention reaches isolated rural communities that we may never reach. Responses indicate that the program has made a difference in the lives of many people.
Lifeline Services Center
When HIV rapid testing kits became available, the need for a small outpatient clinic to assist HIV/AIDS patients in the Gembu area was clear. CD4 count testing lab equipment was donated and soon as other partners began serving the people with us in the LIFELINE CENTER which was built with donations from people in USA and Canada. The HIV/AIDS treatment drugs were provided through a sub-grant from AIDS Relief. Further services are offered including a medical staff of doctors and nurses, a modern lab, counseling services, pharmacy and antiretroviral treatment for nearly 4000 people. The clinic is also open to the general public Monday through Saturday with many patients coming for help.
The pharmacy is a very important part of a clinic or hospital. The pharmacy is the main link for treatment for the HIV-positive patients. The number of patients attending our facility has become much larger than we ever imagined. As usual, our staff has stepped up to make sure that all the drugs are dispensed according to the guidelines established by the national ministry of health.
The demand for quality equipment and operators is important to the success of a clinic which has patients who are struggling with a disease. GECHAAN is fortunate to own a Guava CD4 count machine that is capable of many tests and we are grateful to donors who made purchasing them possible. The lab is now capable of performing a wide variety of illnesses and the lab workers are doing well in keeping pace with the demands that are necessary to treat a wide variety of tests that are of great help to the doctors as they care for patients.
Whenever a person comes around the GECHAAN compound they will notice the presence of technology that is unusual for this part of Africa at this time. In order to assist people outside our staff who need computer training to the Computer Training Center was established. The most useful purpose of the set up was to train prospective university students as it is a great advantage to computer literate for this level of studies. This is an after-school project for junior and secondary school students.