RuWCED has amongst other things recommended that the government of Cameroon and other health partners should create more HIV treatment centers in rural areas.
The recommendation was made after a Participatory Action Research for Strengthening Adolescent led engagement in HIV/AIDS prevention education, testing, treatment and anti-stigma behaviors in Ngoketunjia Division, North West region undertaken by RuWCED.
The research findings were presented on May 23, 2019 in Bamenda in a “dissemination meeting” attended amongst others by the coordinator of the NW Regional Technical Group for the fight against HIV and AIDS, Dr. Tayong Gladys, District Coordinator of the Ndop HIV treatment center, Dr Darlene Nchutong, the Regional Delegate of Secondary education, represenatives of religious instittions, HIV peer educators etc.
According to Lovees Ahfembombi, Finance and Project coordinator of RuWCED, the research which whose target area was the 13 villages that make up Ngoketunjia and has as target population 2600 adolescents was aimed amongst other things at training 26 community leaders to act as information points in providing HIV/AIDS prevention, testing, care, treatment and anti-stigma education, encourage 1300 adolescents to do voluntary HIV/AIDS test and to reduce stigma for adolescence already living with HIV.
The study reveals that talking about sex is still a taboo in the Division, a revelation that can be generalized to other divisions. Of the 2600 adolescence who took part in the participatory action research, 40% of them said they do not discuss sex with any person while 57% discussed sexually only with peers and partners and 3% discuss it with parents.
The research also revealed that of 2600 adolescents reached, over 900 females had experienced some form of physical or sexual violence and 67 % of the females who said they had had sex, they said they did against their will. The research found out that although interventions targeting HIV prevention have taken place in the division, “comprehensive and effective public health strategies including programs for behavioral change, condom use HIV testing etc were slower”. “While all 2600 knew about the male condom and over 2400 had seen one, knowledge about the existence of female condoms is not very wide and its usage is not very common”, the research reveals.
Another interesting finding of the participatory action research is that most adolescents do not feel comfortable to participate in voluntary counselling and testing because of the fear of being associated with being sexually active by other community members. On knowledge of antiretroviral therapy and acceptance of treatment, over 96% of the respondents said they were aware. The major challenge raised however was the fact that the getting access to ARVs has become complicated with the current socio-political crisis rocking the region.
It is one the bases of the above research findings that RuWCED, recommends that more mass HIV/AIDS screening “could be carried out in associations with other youth passionate activities such as music, sports, games etc”, that “more awareness could be raised on female condoms availability and usage” and that the ministries of Higher and Secondary education should factor in HIV/AIDS oriented trainings in their curricular.
Speaking to the media on the importance of the research findings, the coordinator of the NW Regional Technical Group for the fight against HIV and AIDS, Dr. Tayong Gladys said it will help them know what prevention packages to give out to the youths.