By Yemie Adeoye
NIGERIA has overtaken India as the second country with the highest number of people living with HIV/AIDS after South Africa, according to a report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Meanwhile, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), has been recognised for its pioneering intervention in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Nigeria claimed this inglorious position with an estimated number of 2,600,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country, coming second to South Africa which has about 5,700,000 people living with the virus, while India is now third with an estimated 2,400,000 people living with the deadly virus.
This was contained in a statement signed and issued yesterday by the firm’s spokesman, Precious Okolobo.
It stated that on June 24, the company was given the first annual award for Partnership in Collective Action by the New York-based Global Business Council (GBC), for a partnership with Family Health International (FHI) with resulted in the establishment of the Niger Delta AIDS Response Programme (NiDAR).
The award comes as statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that more than 33 million people are living with HIV today, more than two million of whom will die this year if efforts are not scaled up to provide them with the treatment they need. Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the second highest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world after South Africa.
Managing Director of SPDC Mutiu Sunmonu who led a company delegation to the award ceremony in Washington, said: â€œHIV/AIDS is clearly a global problem, and happy to see that the results of NiDAR are appreciated both on the ground and internationally.â€
The award-wining NiDAR programme gives comprehensive HIV/AIDS care, treatment and support services in five hospitals in the Niger Delta – Otuasegha cottage hospital in Bayelsa State, Erhoike cottage hospital in Delta State, Oben cottage hospital in Edo State, Edagberi cottage Hospital in Rivers State and Owaza cottage hospital in Abia State.
Two other institutions – Okolobiri General Hospital and Federal Medical Centre, both in Yenagoa are also being strengthened for the programme.
When implementation commenced in 2007, NiDAR became an avenue not only to scale up HIV/AIDS care and treatment services, but a pathway to developing capacities of people in different specialized areas. NiDAR successfully integrated HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis delivery alongside other health care services at the selected rural hospitals.
The partnership has so far led to 6,824 individuals – of which 3,789 were female â€” being counselled and tested for HIV/AIDS.Â A total of 1,248 or 18% of those tested – 810 being female – were positive.
As a result, NiDAR enrolled a total of 1,049 HIV positive individuals – of which 702 were female – into comprehensive HIV services. 1,779 pregnant women also accessed services for Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT).
In addition, the programme imparted a total of 244 government healthcare workers at NiDAR facilities with a diverse set of new skills.
SPDC served as an active partner throughout the development and implementation of the project. The company contributed US $1.5 million to FHI and provided in-kind services, such as logistics, security and transportation support, and medical staff supervision.
Country Director of FHI in Nigeria, Christoph Hamelmann said: â€œWhat is unique about NiDAR is the collaboration between SPDC from the private sector, FHI as the technical entity and the five state Niger Delta governments as well as the communities and the benefiting hospital. Going forward, this is the model for a successful fight against HIV/AIDS.â€
The Minister of Health, Professor Babatunde Osotimehin, himself an active HIV/AIDS campaigner, has recommended NiDAR as a private-public partnership that should be replicated in all parts of the country.
The GBC honoured the companies at its Excellence Awards Gala which brought together 500 global health leaders from business, governments, multilaterals and the NGO community that are actively involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria in a wide range of ways around the world.
The GBC recognises companies for approaches and execution that have produced outstanding on-the-ground impact that saves lives and enhances the health and well being of employees, families, and communities around the world.
SPDC has also sponsored the production of seven short films and 21 radio drama series as well as a colourful youth magazine, targeting youths with information on HIV/AIDS. Some of the films have won awards in the Nigerian and international film circuits.