Awareness on Mental Health at Adherence Counseling Training in Suleja, Niger State

Gede Foundation and Management Sciences for Health (MSH) jointly trained 15 HIV/AIDS Adherence Counsellors and State focal persons in Suleja, Niger State, from 13th to 16th June 2017. Participants were selected from the Federal Capital Territory, Kebbi, Kwara, Niger, Sokoto and Zamfara States.

One of the objectives of the training was to explore the possibility of integrating mental health into routine ART services of Adherence Counsellors and overall health seeking behaviour—a discussion that is now consideredas important following a number of research articles that suggest a link between the two in terms of attaining significant viral suppression.

Dr Cynthia Ticao (Performance Director, Research and Advocacy, Gede Foundation) raised awareness about mental health and explained, at different sessions, the significance of mental health in HIV treatment outcomes especially in terms of treatment engagement and adherence. Results of the recently published research article from the joint study between Gede Foundation and the Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria (IHVN) on the ‘Prevalence of depression, alcohol abuse, and suicidality among people living with HIV-AIDShelped participants to relate more on thedangers of not addressing common mental health disorders (CMDs) in HIV-AIDS management—a position where Adherence Counsellors remain central.

Participants shared experiences related to their work and recognised the need to pay more attention to mental health conditions among the patients’ community especially because it has gained greater coverage nationally and internationally over the last three years, which is reflected in Sustainable Development Targets and also in the National Strategic Framework forHIV-AIDS Services Delivery (2017-2021). 

The training ended with two conclusions, (i) strong realisation for the need to integrate mental health services into HIV-AIDS care and support among participants and, (ii) Gede and MSH to explore possibilities of creating an effective partnership for a sustainable capacity building programme through the treatment and care continuum for HIV- health workers in order to achieve the overall goal of increasing treatment adherence and retention in care for people seeking ART services.