Feature story

Delivering antiretroviral medicines to homes in Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria

14 July 2020

The restrictions on movement and lockdowns currently being enforced to curb the spread of the new coronavirus in both Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria are having an impact on many people living with HIV. To help mitigate those effects, the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW) West Africa is partnering with health-care facilities to facilitate the home delivery of HIV and other treatments.

Key to being able to provide this service is the recruitment of community pharmacists, who collect and deliver antiretroviral therapy and other medicines to people, especially adolescent girls and young women, who can’t access their treatment themselves. An initiative of ICW and its partner, Positive Action for Treatment Access (PATA), 59 women living with HIV are now serving as community pharmacists, visiting hard to reach semi-urban and rural areas and helping to ensure that no one is left behind because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Under the arrangement, the medicines are provided by the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria, while PATA provides the logistics with support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and ICW West Africa is responsible to the final home delivery.

“I willingly accepted to do this work because as a woman living with HIV, I know what it really means staying without antiretroviral therapy and the likeliness that people may develop drug-resistant strains, whose long-term effects could be worse than COVID-19,” said Queen Kennedy, a community pharmacist in Nigeria.

In Nigeria, community pharmacists are providing services in three COVID-19 high-burden states, Lagos, Federal Capital Territory and Oyo, covering 26 health-care facilities, while in Côte d’Ivoire community pharmacists are working in three provinces covering nine health-care facilities. In addition to their work delivering medicines, the community pharmacists are also sensitizing adolescent girls and women living with HIV on COVID-19 prevention measures, such as physical distancing, wearing face masks and regular hand washing.

“Ensuring access to quality health-care services for adolescent girls and young women and key populations living with HIV is one of our mandates. The only difference here is that we are providing these services in an emergency situation, putting at risk also our own health,” said Reginald Assumpta Ngozika, the Regional Director for ICW West Africa.

Through this partnership, ICW West Africa is also facilitating access to antiretroviral medicines for two foreign women living with HIV who are stranded in Nigeria because of border closures. Since the two women ran out of their medicines, they are being assisted by ICW community pharmacists, who collect and deliver their treatment in Lagos and Rivers State.

“Thank you ICW West Africa for keeping me on my medicines during this COVID-19 lockdown in Nigeria,” said one of the beneficiaries.