By Patience Ogbodo
BAUCHI â€”Â Chairman of the Bauchi State Agency for the Control of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis/Leprosy and Malaria (BACATMA), Rilwanu Muhammad, has said of about three million people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, 60 per cent are women just as majority of them live in the rural areas thereby making it very difficult for them to access adequate medical attention.
Mohammed stated this while speakingÂ to newsmen shortly after outlining his Agencyâ€™s plan of action for next year.
He said statistics available to his Agency indicated that over 13,000 people are currently infected with the HIV/AIDS virus in Bauchi State with Katagum, Ningi, Tafawa Balewa and Jamaâ€™are local governments having the highest rate among the 20 local government councils in the state.
He explained that December 1 was set aside every year to sensitise the public on the effect of the disease with the theme: â€œUniversal access and human rightâ€ on the provision of universal access to treatment, care, support and maintaining the dignity of persons infected by the virus.
He further said about 22.5 million Africans are HIV positive and AIDS was the leading cause of premature death where 61 per cent of those who are HIV positive are women and young women but pointed out that today both urban and rural areas are continuously suffering from the devastating effect of the disease where about 30 per cent of HIV pregnant women give birth to HIV infected children which occurs during pregnancy, delivery or breast feeding.
HeÂ said in Bauchi State, about 120 HIV positive persons had got married in an attempt to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS within the last one year and of that, about 28 married couples infected with HIV virus gave birth to children who are negative.
He said the state government released the sum of N46, 100.069 as counterpart funding to The Netherlands leprosy relief as part of governmentâ€™s effort to ensure the eradication of such diseases.
He also said the polygamous culture of Northern part of the country had increased the spread of the disease.
â€œPolygamy as we have discovered has became a potent source of spreading the HIV scourge in Nigeria,” he said, noting that the marriages were arranged under strict confidentiality, “while suitors who have tested positive and are willing to wed each other can reduce the spread of the virus and also cushion the psychological trauma of isolation.”