By Ebun Babalola & Olayinka Latona
AVAILABILITY of toll free hotline telephone counsellingÂ to increase awareness on HIV andÂ AIDS and promote reproductive health issues has been recognised as one ofÂ the effective means of enabling the media to effectively advocate for issues related to sexually transmitted infections (STI) in the country.
The free telephone counselling services which have provided valuable information and education on underlying causes and shared solutions, continue to serve as e basis for linkages that can strengthen all services and increase the reach of HIV prevention and testing and allied services.
Deputy Head Public Private Partnership Forum, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA),Â Mr. Effiong Eno, said majority of the callers seekÂ information on basic facts on HIV & AIDS.
He said Persons Living With HIV (PLWH), call to obtain general information about social and medical issues relating to their status, while most young callers seek information on contraception and general relationships issues.
EffiongÂ who spoke during aÂ media forum organised by Development Communications Network (DEVCOMS) with the theme â€œTelephone Counseling in Promoting Safe Sexual and Reproductive Health Practices: A success Story of Toll-free Hotlines Servicesâ€, observed that the tinitiative is to be scaled up. he notedÂ the readiness of Zain Nigeria to power the hotline which would be for capacity of 30 simultaneous voice calls with the addition of two data lines. It would facilitate counseling and referals services through email, text messages, chat, etc.
Executive Secretary, Youth Empowerment Foundation (YEF), Mrs. Iwalola Akin-Jimoh, said more males than females make use of the hotline. She said since inceptionÂ 10 years ago, the hotline has been strategic in increasing the uptake of HIV & AIDS and reproductive health services across the country.
â€œWith the aid of trained counselors who are mainly young people trained by NACA, peopleâ€™s lives have been improved. Ages ofÂ callers rangedÂ between 15- 45 years, with majority of the clients being young people aged 20-35 years.â€