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HIV/AIDS Voluntary Screening Taken To Households


By Leocadia Bongben

Cameroonians have been urged to welcome survey teams to their homes and get tested for HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B, besides biological examinations carried out in household for free.

This is the essence of the voluntary HIV/AIDS headcount; dubbed Cameroon Population-based HIV Impact Assessment-CAMPHIA which would involve 14,000 households randomly selected through-out the national territory.

Public Health Minister, Andre Mama Fouda launched CAMPHIA on March 13 at the Yaoundé Hilton Hotel in the presence of stakeholders.

CAMPHIA is funded by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR, through the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC and implemented by the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, ICAP.

Launching the project, Mama Fouda urged all Cameroonians to welcome the survey teams which will  have nurses, laboratory technicians to analyse the blood on the spot, test the viral load-the amount of HIV in the blood and the amount of cells that can fight HIV for those positive and direct them to where they can get treatment.

The survey teams would visit randomly selected households and gather information with their consent. The whole process is voluntary with questions asked, followed by counselling for those positive after tests and results provided the same day.

It is estimated that  process  would last for about seven months would commence in the days ahead with survey staff trained and ready for the field work.

The Minister reassured the public of the confidentiality of the survey and proper handling of blood according to the public health approved standards.

He underscored the importance of many Cameroonians knowing their status given that the members of a family, father mother and children would be tested.

“There is no need to be scared of knowing your status because this would help to live a responsible life. I would be happy to know my wife or child does not have HIV or Hepatitis B. If carrier of the virus, it is important to get treatment and not wait. One can have HIV without actually getting sick”, he advised.

“It is important for everybody to know their status, and for everybody to get treatment so as to reach the 90-90 90 target where 90 percent Cameroonians would know their status, 90 percent get treatment and 90 percent suppression of viral load by 2020 and eventual elimination of HIV/AIDS”.

In 2014 UNAIDS set the 90-90-90 target, an ambitious treatment three part target to be achieved by 2020.

Given that HIV/AIDS indicators are not available, Mama Fouda, maintained that the survey would help the government know if it is on track since the survey conducted in 2011. HIV/AIDS prevalence according the 2011 Demographic and Health Survey, DHS, is pegged at 4.3 percent for adults from 15-49.

The survey would also provide a broader understanding of HIV response at both national and regional level, guide investment, target programmes for with greater risks, and those in need of services most and determine user satisfaction with health systems and policy formulation.

Depression, Serious Health Concern In Cameroon

By Leocadia Bongben

Yaounde-Are you persistently sad, lack interest and capacity to accomplish daily tasks for more than two weeks, you can consider yourself depressed.

If you also have the feeling of guilt, uselessness, trouble with sleep and appetite and losing weight, having difficulties to concentrate, talk about it and seek medical advice, because, you are depressed.

The above sums-up World Health Organisation, WHO’s definition of depression, associated with mental disorder.

The principal causes of depression are the loss of a dear one, poverty, joblessness, physical illness, abusive consumption of alcohol and drugs, besides violence and war.

Within this precinct, Dr. Jean Baptiste Rougou, WHO Cameroon Representative says depression is a reoccupying health problem, particularly in Cameroon, Africa and the world.

He made the statement during the commemoration of the World Health Day on April 7, also the date of the creation of WHO, at the Yaounde Hilton Hotel.

The day, celebrated under the theme; “Depression, Let Talk,” was chaired at by the Minister of Public Heath, Andre Mama Fouda, in the presence of the health family.

According to Rougou, attributed to witchcraft and spiritual practices, cases of depression are on the rise which makes it a public health problem.

He quoted the message WHO Regional Director, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, that, “depression, which is a major cause of incapacity, affects about 332 million people the world over, with about 30 million in Africa”.

“We are all exposed to the risk of depression which touches every person in all ages. Stigmatisation and fear of social isolation prevents those affected from going for treatment…” Moeti said.

She maintained that it is essential to identify depressive episodes from the beginning so as to avoid transformation into a chronic disease.

Depression leads to suicide which, is the second cause of deaths in the world in young people between 15-29 years, varies in age and is more acute between 55-74 years.

Dr. Felicien Ntone Enyime, psychiatrist, one of the few five for the 20 million Cameroonians, depression, which is multifaceted, affecting both the mental and physical would need the more general doctors to provide the needed care.

He equally said, to come out of a situation of depression, there is need for community services besides physical exercise, taking regular walks to sweat out depression.

WHO is helping with the Global Action Programme and intervention guide and the Global Mental Health Action plan 2013-2020 to increase and improve healthcare services for people with mental disorder, by training health workers who are not specialists in mental health to give care.

The world health body therefore urges governments to allocate more human and financial resources to support mental health programmes to respond to the growing burden. Governments also need to include mental health in national agenda in line with the Brazzaville Declaration on non-communicable diseases outlining the steps on how to achieve this.

Celebrating 55 years in Cameroon, WHO counted achievements such as: support to Government and ameliorating the health of the population, rehabilitation of health systems in Garoua, digitalisation of the health card, construction and equipment of a maternity in Bafia, blood banks in 10 health centres, vaccination and polio eradication, support to emergency units, fight against neglected tropical diseases, malaria.

However, the challenges for WHO are numerous; regaining confidence of the population in health systems, closing the gap in the distribution of health personnel and add vigour to routine vaccination, among others.

WHO projects to encourage HIV/AIDS treatment for all, reinforce capacity in the prevention and response to emergencies and disasters, fight malaria, tuberculosis, mental health, maternal and infant mortality, among others.


Women Demand More Female Condoms

By Leocadia Bongben

Yaounde, Cameroon- When the female condom was introduced years ago, its use was timid and many complained it made noise, but today, the demand for the female condom is on the high side as women take control of its use.

Figures advanced by the Cameroon Association of Social Marketing, ACMS, the structure that commercialises the female condom, more than 1,5million condoms were sold in 2013, indicating that the demand is enormous.

Amougou, nee Mofoue Augustine Bernadette has been using the female condom for the past three years and knows why the demand is on the increase.

“Initially the female condom made so much noise and women did not know how to properly place it, but now, they know. I move with it the whole day when i know I am going to meet my partner don’t want him to complain that it takes long to insert”.

With the female condom becoming more comfortable, Amougou on the September 16, Global Female Condom Day, negotiated for the NGO “Women, Health and Development”, FESADE to sensitise women of the Nkoa-Mbang market in the Mefou- Afamba division on the use of the female condom.

In this neighbourhood women joined the ‘Dance4Demand’ initiated by the RutgersWPF-Netherlands Centre for Sexual and Reproductive Health, on the premise that, “young girls who are ignorant of the use of the female condom to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies bring to the world children without fathers”, Amougou said. These girls deliver between 13 and 14 years and the problem is linked to their lack of education, she lamented.

In this light, Clementine Menguele of the Apostolic Women Group underscored the importance of the female condom. “I tell women to use the female condom which is advantageous for us, economic, has a normal sensation and limits of sexually transmittable diseases”.

As a mother of seven she knows the benefits of the female condom to limit the number of children and she advices other women in her Church group to use and impose the female condom to their partners. “I took time to convince my partner, I refuse sexual intercourse if he does not use the female condom”, Menguele says.

Though initially the church refused contraceptives times have changed, the church and Christian are changing. “The condom is a way of ensuring health and through informal women’s meetings in the church we share information on the family and health profitable for society”, she added.

Not only women are adhering to the female condom men like Landry Akene advice that men should not be afraid of the female condom, but try it, saying it is practical for women acting like a bucket to contain liquid. He underscored the need for more campaigns given that in markets women get exposed to many illnesses through negligence.

On the occasion, Jean Pierre Makang , Inspector of Social Affairs, Sub-director for the Promotion of Women’s’ Rights at the Ministry of Women Empowerment urged women to take their sexuality in their her hands and operate her choices in liberty saying gone are the days when men imposed the male condom. He said women should focus on the use of the female condom for personal satisfaction, the family and couple.

The Global Female Condom Day was celebrated in the world on September 16 and Cameroon was part of the celebrations at the Nkoa Mbang neighbourhood to present the female condom, known to some and not to others, to show that the product is demanded as first choice protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

“Men and women already know the female condom, are trying it and adopting as their choice”, Urbain Abega, Programme coordinator at FESADE reiterated.

Minister Robs Women Of Female Condoms

Leocadia Bongben

Yaounde-Cameroon-While NGOs advocating for the funding of the female condom rejoiced that government for once had budgeted for the purchase of contraceptives, their joy was short-lived as the earmarked money was eventually used to refurbish the Ministry of Public Health.

We learnt that the Ministry of Public Health opened a line in the 2013 budget of FCFA 30 million for the purchase of contraceptives which include female condoms among others.

While the ministry promised to increase the budget for contraceptives to FCFA 75 million, the initial amount however was channelled to refurbish the ministry engulfed by fire some months ago, Urbain Abega programme Manager of the Women Health and Development, FESADE has said.

Not that the idea of refurbishing the burnt section of the Ministry was bad, but NGOs say government should have searched for finances elsewhere.
With funders of female condom withdrawing in 2015, government needs to understand the importance of supporting the research, development and purchase of the female condom.

It is against the backdrop of the lack of funding that the 2014 Global Female Condom Day would be celebrated in Cameroon.

Nkoabang in Yaoundé would be the venue where the ‘Dance4Demand’ for the female condom would be staged alongside ‘condomised zones’ on September 16. The “Dance4Demand” campaign aims to demonstrate the need and desire for female condom.

The event to be organised by the NGO, “Women, Health and Development”, FESADE, in collaboration with the ACMS is set to be a fun and engaging way to educate the community.

Advocates maintain that the only woman initiated prevention option currently available against HIV, sexually transmitted infection (STI) and pregnancy is the female condom. It offers people of any gender who engage in receptive sex a way to take greater control of their health.

However, many people lack access to female condoms, an effective prevention tool which advocates for sexual health, HIV prevention and reproductive justice say female condoms are needed and wanted in communities.

FESADE last year worked in collaboration with other NGOs to contribute to the reduction of the cost of the female condom and has been working with traditional rulers in the Mefou and Afamba, Mehandan and Nfou with about 50 women to promote the use of the female condom.

Contraceptive Use Can Save 4000 Lives, Study Finds

By Leocadia Bongben

Contraceptive use promotes health, saves lives and cost a study on “Costs and benefits of investing services in Cameroon”, conducted by the Institute of Demographic Research, IFORD, Cameroon and the Guttmacher Research Institute, USA, had found.

Prof. Gervais Bennguisse, study coordinator, presented the findings to the press in the presence of the Director of the Guttermacher Institute, Dr. Akinrinola Bankole on July 29 in Yaounde.

The study posits that if women’s needs on contraceptives are met, there would be 373,000 fewer unwanted pregnancies each year, a decrease of 76 percent. Besides, unplanned births, abortions and miscarriages would be reduced and 1300 fewer women would die.

This, against the backdrop that Cameroon has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, as an estimated 782 women die from pregnancy or delivery-related causes per 100,000 live births.

Consequently, 6,000 women die every year many who had not wished to be pregnant in the first place.

Lack of access to quality family planning services expose women to unwanted pregnancies and risks of childbirth without adequate care.

Meeting women’s needs for modern contraception is seen to be central in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, MDG- improving maternal health, reducing child mortality and can combating HIV/AIDS.

But, the study indicates that the current contraceptive use in Cameroon is inadequate, with only 37 percent of the 2.3 million women of the reproductive age using modern contraception methods.

Women in the northern region are more at risk as a result of cultural values that limit access to contraceptives while the low income women are at risk of unwanted pregnancies.

Among the reasons for the none use of contraceptives are, concerns about side effects, the cost of family planning and lack of adequate trained health care personnel among other.

In this vein, in 2013, there were an estimated 490,000 unwanted pregnancies, 80 percent of them not using contraceptives and 175,000 of the unintended pregnancies ended in abortions.

The study indicates that investing in family planning can save money. In 2013, government spent FCFA 6.87 billion and it would cost FCFA 12 billion to fulfill half the unmet need for contraception. But the expenditure for reproductive health represents only 1.1 percent of the health budget.

Government is urged to increase investment in reproductive health to attain the goal of doubling contraceptives prevalence by 2020. Also, to achieve significant reduction in maternal and infant mortality, government needs to invest in health care and service delivery infrastructure.

The study was equally presented to government, international organisations and heads of diplomatic missions to Cameroon.

Bankole on the occasion expressed satisfaction on the collaboration between IFORD and the Guttmacher Institute and promised to step up research in other areas related to reproductive health.

Wild Polio Virus Spreading In Cameroon

Leocadia Bongben

A wild polio virus is spreading in the country since October 2013 and has set the Ministry of Public Health and its partners jittery.

One of the recent cases was a five year old child who traveled from from kribi in the South region to the Banso Baptiste Hospital where one of the seven cases of polio was detected.

Announcing vaccination campaigns that took place over the week-end, the Minister of Public Health, Andre Mama Fouda said, “Every case of confirmed polio is an epidemic because around each confirmed patient, there are at least 200 children with the virus who continue to spread it.”

Poliomyelitis is an infectious and highly contagious disease that invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis and sometimes death.

Mama Fouda said since the last case of wild polio virus was recorded in 2009, Cameroon was on track to eradicating polio but seven cases detected in three regions (West, Centre and South) have dashed hopes of eradication.

He said the risk of international spread was high with the large movement of goods and people across the borders due to the political unrest in the sub-region.

<strong Vaccination Campaigns from April-June

In order to tackle the epidemic, the Minister announced a vaccination campaign for April last week-end and two more in May and June.

Mama Fouda maintained that the number of doses taken only helps to increase immunity and parents should not be afraid of the repeated vaccination for children from 0-5 years as their health is in no way affected.

“Leaving children without vaccination weakens collective protection and risks destroying efforts”, he stressed. Though health professionals will embark on a door to door vaccination strategy, parents should still take their children to the nearest health centres, Mama Fouda said.

He urged the health personnel to sensitise the population on the merits of vaccination.

Since October 2013, Government WHO and UNICEF have organised seven response campaigns four in 2013 and three in 2014 with 4,730213 children vaccinated.

Diabetes Patients In Cameroon Poorly Controlled

Leocadia Bongben

Prof. Jean Claude Mbanya, Endocrinologists at the Faculty of Medicine and Biological Sciences University of Yaoundé 1, has declared that diabetic patients in Cameroon are poorly controlled.

The outgoing President of the International Diabetes Federation made the declaration during the second African Diabetes conference that opened in Yaoundé from February 25-28.

Participants at  Diabetes conference
Going by him, insulin-treatment for diabetic patients is limited and poorly used in most patients, leading to poor control of glycaemia (the level of sugar in the blood) and in the long run haemoglobin which is the measuring index.

For patients not to develop complications hemoglobin has to be less than 5 percent, thus, Mbanya observed from statistics that patients in Cameroon are not properly controlled.

He said only 39 percent of the patients have the equipment to control their glycaemia lamenting that is difficult to control patients without knowing their level of glycaemia.

Control for a chronic disease like diabetes entails many factors: education of the patients, telling patients that diabetes does not mean death, that it can be controlled to avoid complications.

He insisted that patients have to know their ailment and know how to control it. Mbanya concluded that it is abnormal for many patients stay on oral anti-diabetes drugs for about 20 years with only few not developing complications.

He said much needs to be done to control glycaemia and anterior hypertension observing that patients are developing complications because they are not properly controlled.

19.3 million people live with diabetes in the Africa, and the figure is estimated to double in 2035 to 41.5 percent. Among many African countries 60 percent of diabetes patients are not yet diagnosed in Cameroon.

For Said Norou Diop, lecturer at the Faculty of Medicine, Cheik Anta Diop University in Senegal, focus is on prevention.
Said Norou Diop

One of the strategies to him, is through voluntary action by the health professionals, for the doctors to be well trained and in this light, 1000 doctors have been trained on diabetes diagnosis and treatment.

The population, he said should change lifestyles: eat less sugar, salt and fatty foods and walk at least 30 minutes every day. This helps to prevent anterior hypertension and clotting of cholesterol, which is a cardiovascular disease risk factor.

He warned that there is no bread and life for diabetic patients. There may be light drinks but the population should read the notice to know the components to ascertain if actually it contains less sugar.

Proper feeding for patients entail knowing the components; proteins found in fish, meat and egg; cereals, vitamin A in vegetables and fruits and calcium from milk and milk derivatives.

He stressed “there is need to eat and also move”, and added that the challenge is to ensure early diagnosis and access to treatment which is expensive.

In partnership with the government, Sanofi a pharmaceutical firm based in Africa has been striving to get the drugs closer to the patients.

Thanks to the innovations and research by the company, Philomene Akonoze who has been living with diabetes for the past six years now takes her insulin in the required dose with the injection pen.
Diabetes patient-Philomenne Akonoze
Akonoze before who diagnosis was urinating after every 10minutes and was very thirsty, was very tired and had a difficult as she thought diabetes signified death, can now live with her disease.

“I know how to take control of my glycaemia and the dose of insulin to take, I was programmed on insulin and today my glycaemia has stabilized”.

But, the pharmaceutical company is not stopping in the search for innovations, as Amy Ndoa Fall, Sanofi West Africa Medical and Regulatory Director says the ‘Allstar’ injection key innovation would be released to the market early 2015.
'Allstar' insulin instrument to be released in 2015
“For the patients, this would remove the discomfort from having to go through injections with the risk of pushing the needle far; the patient can move with the pen and with just a click, the right quantity of insulin is released”.

The injection pen is going through the registration process to be released into the market but if issues of cost are not viewed in partnership with governments only a few patients would have access to the comfort of this treatment.