“If we must move from where we are, there is every need to own the problem (high HIV/AID prevalence). It is our problem and we are the only ones to bring a solution to it. Our commitment is very important in ensuring that we succeed in changing the narrative”
– Dr. Eunice Ortom (wife of the Executive governor and former SACA Chairperson of Benue state)
An antenatal care sentinel survey of 2014 estimated a prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS at 15.4% in Benue State. Historically, funding for the HIV/AIDS program came from monthly remittances from each of the 23 Local Government Areas. These resources were used to support Local Action Committees on HIV/AIDS for HIV prevention activities but they were stopped in early 2014 – significantly reducing financial resources available for HIV/AIDS in the state.
USAID’s Health Finance and Governance Project (HFG) initiated work in the state in January 2018 bringing with it lessons on domestic resource mobilization (DRM) for HIV/AIDS approaches learned from its work in other states like Lagos State. Some important lessons that HFG has learned are the importance of multi-sectoral engagement, high-level advocacy and engagement of the legislature when undertaking DRM initiatives. Working with the Benue State Agency for the Control of AIDS (BENSACA), a multi-sectoral Domestic Resource Mobilization Technical Working Group (DRM TWG) on HIV/AIDS was established.
Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom (third from right). To his right, HFG Program Coordinator, Juliana Aribo; and Speaker Benue State House of Assembly Hon. Terkimbi Ikyange; with other members of the DRM TWG; Executive Secretary Primary Healthcare Board, Bem Ageda; Executive Secretary BENSACA, Dura M. Gideon; BENSACA Prevention Officer, Regina Amen; Director General BECCIMA, Njie Andrew; CISHAN Coordinator, Tuta Veronica; APIN rep, Thomas Usha; UNAIDS Coordinator, Fadiya Temitope; NHIS Coordinator, Otalu Oche; Chairman, State Assembly Appropriation Committee, Hon. Okholo Adams; PS, SMOH, Sunday Ochenjele; HFG’s SPC, Helen Ochayi; Lead Officer, Bureau of Local Government, Avaan Torkwase; HFG Consultant, Alhassan Emmanuel; Director Budget, Planning Commission, Levah Moses; Director, Admin & Supply, Min of Finance, Ngufan Amiseh; and Commissioner of Finance, Hon. David Olofu; during the advocacy visit to the Governor’s Office.
The DRM-TWG constitutes key state stakeholders, representatives of development partners, civil society, and the media. Critical HIV/AIDs epidemiological and financing statistics were gathered by the DRM TWG to galvanize efforts at improving domestic financing for health and HIV/AIDS through the public and private sectors.
Following an advocacy visit by HFG and members of the Benue State DRM TWG to the Governor on 5th March, 2018, the Governor reinstated the monthly deductions for HIV/AIDS by issuing a strong directive to the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy affairs to ensure immediate releases. “We appreciate the USAID for their support to the state. We will do whatever we need to do, the local government allocations will be restored with immediate effect. I will also take the lead in advocacy as you have requested” assured the Executive Governor of Benue state.
To that effect, the Governor has approved an annual sum of $180,984 USD. The funding release will be spread across 12 months with the March 2018 allocation already paid to the Benue State Agency for the Control of AIDS (BENSACA) account. This will be used to finance quarterly HIV community outreach activities in the LGAs, procurement of test kits and monitoring visits.
USAID’s Health Finance and Governance Project (HFG) will continually support the DRM TWG especially to ensure value for money through efficient expenditure tracking and sustained local financing in their bid to drive down HIV/AIDS numbers in Benue State.