By Chioma Obinna
WORRIED by the silent but steady rises in number of people affected with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria, the Centre for the Right to Health (CRH) last week took its anti HIV/AIDS campaign to Mushin area of Lagos, where 1,500Â commercial motor -cyclists were screened free of charge.
A total ofÂ 2,500 commercial motor-cyclists also received one-on-one HIV prevention messages including specific strategies to sustain HIV negative status or live positively with HIV.
The week- long outreach rally tagged, â€œMenâ€™s Health Projectâ€ conducted in collaboration with an international non-governmental organisation,Â the Population Council Nigeria, according to organisers of the programme was targeted at transport workers.
Programme Manager, Dr. Emeka Nwachukwu said: â€œWe also want to work with the police and the community of men that have sex with men because we are concerned about their high profile of HIV.â€
He explained that Menâ€™s Health Network is a project of the Population Council Nigeria aimed at preventing new HIV infection among high risk men in Nigeria.
During the screening, persons who tested negative were counseled to remain negative with the ABC prevention of HIV strategy. A is for abstinence from sexual activities until marriage, B is to be faithful to one partner and C is consistently and correctly use a condom if an individual cannot abstain or stick to a partner. Use condom for every sexual act, â€œis a core message in the prevention of HIV.â€
In a chat with Good Health Weekly Programme Manager Â CRH, Lagos office, Mrs. Christy Udofia-Ekerete said the Menâ€™s Health Network targets the most at-risk persons with special focus on men, as bread winners, occupy an important aspect in every family life.
â€œMost times they donâ€™t acknowledge they have health risk. Hence often when they are ill, they buy paracetamol or herbal mixture.
She noted that programme was to enlighten on the need to access quality health care which readily available.
Udofia-Ekerete hinted that the starting point is the screening for their HIV Virus. Those whose HIV status is positive are promptly referred to the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba Lagos for confirmatory HIV test and follow up treatment if positive.
The CRH Programme Manager affirmed that men who have sex with men are on the increase the Nigerian environment. A CRH intervention programme that screened 30 people in this group in Lagos Island two months ago revealed 15 were HIV positive.
â€œOur first intervention was with gays. Subsequently it would focus on taxi drivers, truck drivers and the long distance drivers all of whom are HIV high risk groups.Â Even for those who are found to be HIV positive, we also encouraged them to stay positive while practicing safe sex.
Mr Ramon Akinde Martins, Chairman Motorcycle operators in Mushin, said such programmes help educate and enlighten them on the right course to check HIV.