The HIV/AIDS pandemic has been a longstanding battle in Africa. Millions of lives are lost annually due to this incurable virus, and infections rise too. Many organisations have taken the initiative to lend a helping hand to communities ravaged by the disease, and the Lifayan Yara project is no different. However, while many organisations focus on educating the masses about prevention methods and providing support and medical care to those already infected, Lifayan Yara differs in that its mission is to reduce the number of mother-to-child transmissions in Nigeria.
Lafiyan Yara, which means 'well-being of children' in the Hausa language, is an initiative whose main aim is to increase access to HIV services and reduce mother-to-child transmission among children aged 0-14 by 2022 in eight districts of Taraba State, Nigeria. Taraba has a population of 3.4 million with an HIV prevalence of 2.9%, making it the fourth highest in Nigeria.
Knowledge of the HI virus, how it spreads, and how to keep oneself safe from it is not widespread. However, information about how an HIV-positive mother could prevent passing the virus onto her baby is lesser-known. In addition, most mothers in small villages and towns use conventional/traditional delivery methods due to the excessive price of healthcare. Therefore, there is little recognition of mother-to-infant transmission of HIV when help is available.
Lafiyan Yara trains midwives and provides personal protective gear and medical supplies such as HIV test kits. The program works with communities, health workers, and religious leaders to promote discussion and awareness of HIV. In addition, they create employment as doulas, earn around 32,000 nairas (£65) monthly, and help the women start their businesses.
Medical facilities receive Antiretroviral therapy (ART) from the state but are underutilised. As a result, a project like Lafiyan Yara has become an integral part of the fight against HIV in Taraba, given that over the past three years, more than 800 people in Taraba have been diagnosed with HIV. Fortunately, the program's presence has ensured that those people receive their treatment.
According to Aidsfonds, the non-profit that supports the program, Lafiyan Yara
ensures quick detection and inclusion in HIV testing and counselling services, as well as prenatal care. In addition, it will improve the capacity of existing informal health organisations, such as traditional midwives, village health workers, and traditional and religious leaders.
Lastly, it will promote health-oriented behaviours to ensure pregnant women, children, and their caregivers have continuous access to testing and counselling services.
"We do not want children to come out of their mother's womb HIV positive, even when their mothers are positive," program director Aisha Dadi told The Guardian. "Nigeria has a high rate of mother-to-child transmission, we want to close that gap."
The project could prove successful by improving case detection for HIV-positive children by improving access to prenatal care services for pregnant women and children and fostering health-seeking behaviour of pregnant women and children to HIV services. Early detection of HIV has the propensity to lessen infant, baby, and maternal mortality. Furthermore, an increased positive outlook from infected mothers and attendants imparting invaluable knowledge and displaying their skills and accessible medication will inspire hospital attendance resulting in a community that deals with HIV without stigmatisation.
There's still so much to achieve in the fight against this virus that has devastated many communities. Initiatives like Lafiyan Yara play integral parts in ensuring HIV patients are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. The lack of adequate medical attention opens up areas of vulnerability for marginalised groups such as these mothers, but this project offers hope and help. More programs of this nature deserve support and exposure.