The Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) says it is collaborating with private pharmacies in communities to ease access to anti-retroviral treatment by people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the country.
A statement issued by Mr Dennis Mordi the Communication Manager, IHVN, quoted Mr Yohanna Avong, Associate Director, IHVN, as saying that “with the collaboration, PLHIV who has been receiving treatment for more than six months and were responding to treatment would be referred to community pharmacies.”
According to the statement, Avong said “the partnership would make it easier for PLHIV to have access to drug refill and counselling instead of queuing up in hospitals for their drugs.”
According to him, more than 30 pharmacists from accredited pharmacies in rural communities have been trained to provide HIV treatment, adherence, pharmaceutical care, proper management and storage of HIV drugs, among other skills.
He said that the target is to recruit 75 pharmacies in Benue and Nasarawa states and the FCT before the end of 2017.
“Before we introduce this approach, treatment of people living with HIV has been based only in the hospital. This is the first time the community approach is being implemented in the health sector in Nigeria. If HIV is to end by 2030, treatment must shift from the hospital to the community. Right now, most of the hospitals that are treating HIV patients are overcrowded,” he said.
Avong also stated that the initiative has been piloted for a year in the FCT with over 250 PLHIV benefiting, and six secondary hospitals participating in it.
He said that there were plans to also implement it in Benue, which is also a high burden HIV state.
“Patients now have better access to a convenient way of getting their medications. The hospital approach alone does not promote adherence. Studies that were done in the past few years show that in Africa, the rate of patients dropping out of treatment is increasing. Ultimately, this initiative will improve adherence to treatment and findings from our pilot phase show that this is true,” Avong said.
He called on the Nigerian government to sustain the initiative that is currently sponsored by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Mordi also quoted Mrs Adonis Gesa, General Hospital Nyanya, who participated in the pilot project as saying that the initiative has reduced the work of healthcare providers.
“Before now, we have patients who come as early as 6 a.m and leave as late as 4 p.m, but now by 1 p.m, 90 per cent of the patients have been attended to,” she said.
One of the PLHIV, who has been getting drug refills in a pharmacy in Karu, said that he is happy that he can go there at any time and get good attention and drug without delay.