Ambassador Leonard’s remarks during the launch of the Nigeria HIV Clinical Mentorship Program

Kano Hall, Transcorp Hilton Hotel
Abuja, Nigeria

It is my honor to be here today as part of the launch of the U.S.-supported Nigeria HIV Clinical Mentorship Program.  Today’s event is another important milestone in our bilateral relations, working with Nigeria to build the kind of robust capacity it needs to attain and sustain HIV epidemic control.

A few months ago, PEPFAR released a Vision 2025 strategy.  The strategy sets a bold vision for achieving sustained epidemic control of HIV by focusing on three core goals: reaching UNAIDS treatment targets (95-95-95), building enduring capabilities, and developing lasting partnerships.  The need to strengthen the core capabilities of partner governments to autonomously lead, manage, and monitor their own HIV response in an effective, equitable, and enduring manner has been identified as a key PEPFAR priority.

The clinical mentorship program does just that – it provides an opportunity for healthcare workers to receive practical learning during the implementation of quality HIV programs. Furthermore, it does so by using the tried-and-true methods of continuous quality improvement in line with current Nigeria HIV national guidelines.  It is designed to draw lessons learned from clinical mentoring approaches in place throughout Nigeria and beyond while deepening government leadership of the national HIV response.

Since the U.S.-Nigerian partnership on HIV began, achieving HIV epidemic control has been the end goal.  By building local healthcare workers’ clinical and programmatic capacity over time, we develop workforce that can lead, manage, and monitor the HIV/AIDS response from within its healthcare system.  Furthermore, the mentor program will strengthen government ownership of the HIV program – at both national and state levels – thus safeguarding a sustained long-term epidemic control of HIV.

This U.S. CDC-supported flagship program will support the Federal Ministry of Health to expand beyond Rivers state, where we first piloted the mentor program in Nigeria in 2019, to an additional 18 states and the Federal Capital Territory.  To date, we have now recruited, trained, and deployed 19 national mentors to specific facilities across Nigeria, with another 46 state-level clinical mentors soon to be deployed.

Finally, we are proud of our partnership with the Federal Ministry of Health that has enabled us to place over 1.6 million people living with HIV on life-saving treatment.  We remain committed to completing the task of placing all people living with HIV on treatment and to strengthening capacity and commitment at all levels to help us sustain these gains for the long term.  The launch of the National Clinical Mentoring Program today is another concrete step in this direction.