By Ebun Babalola
Their response seem to imply that their lives and survival depended on it. But unlike what obtains presently in Nigeria, members of the Lagos State House of Assembly surprisingly demonstrated the imperative of subjecting themselves to an HIV/AIDS test instead of shying away from it as many are wont. This they did during a one-dayÂ free HIV counseling and testing services organised by the Lagos State AIDS Control Agency, LSACA which took place at theÂ Assembly complex.
The counselling and testingÂ which started at the early hours of that Wednesday morning and lasted till 6â€™o clock in the evening attracted a large turn-out of the law makers who did not exhibit any discomfort or uneasiness at being so tested for the dreaded in spite of the stigma associated with it. Those tested included the Speaker of the House,Â Â Adeyemi Ikuforiji; the Clerk,Â Olatunji Taiwo;Â Dr. Samuel Babatunde Adejare, the Chairman of the Health Committee of the House and also the a representative of Agege constituency 11, Mrs. Yemisi Taylor, among others.
Apart from the testing, the law makers and others present were made to answer counselling questions bordering on:Â â€œWhat do I do if my spouse is HIV positive? What happens to me if Iâ€™m carrying a baby and at the same time discover that I am HIV positive? What is the consequence of an individual who is living with HIV?â€
While calling on Lagosians to join in the crusade of knowing their HIV status, Speaker Ikuforiji positedÂ that for anyone toÂ live long, he or she should endeavour to know his or her HIV status.
Also, the Chairman of the Health Committee of the House and also the a representative of Agege constituency 11, Hon Dr. Adejare, said the programme was aimed at intimating Lagosians on the benefits of knowing their status and obtaining proper medical attention if infected.Â According to him: â€œHIV is a manageable disease and people are living very well with it. Nothing is limiting them in any form. So this is what the focus is all about, especially amongst the honourable membersâ€.
While explaining that behaviourial change might be one of the hindrances in achieving the required success when it comes HIV testing and counseling, he however said continuous awareness on the issue would yield a positive result. â€œAnd we believe that the more the message is spread, the more people tend to adjust and seek solace in the gospel. One wouldnâ€™t know when the message would change the lives of people. That is reason why it is important to continue in the crusade,â€ he added.
Lamenting that People Living with HIV/AIDS are being discriminated against, he said the Lagos State House of Assembly has passed laws to safeguard their well-being and help to limit risk to HIV.Â â€œThere is also the Blood Transfusion Agency Bill where you cannot just transfuse blood anyhow in this state anymore without going through governmentâ€™s vetting and checking.
All these are to limit the spreadÂ ofÂ HIV. We have the law against stigmatization of People Living with HIV /AIDS, PLWHA. We have the health reform law which is to promote better healthcare delivery for everybody in the state. It is not limited to HIV/AIDS alone. All these laws have been passed,â€ he said.
He added that the HouseÂ had appealed to theÂ LSACA that it should organise a programme in conjunction with each representative of every constituency â€œbecause it is a better avenue to get to the grassrootsâ€.
In his response, the Chief Executive Officer, LSACA, Dr. Adetokunbo Dabiri, said severe symptoms of HIV infection and AIDS may not appear for 10 years.
And for years leading up to that, a person may not have symptoms of AIDS. The amount of time it takes for symptoms of AIDS to appear varies from person to person.
He added that some people may feel and look healthy for years even while they are infected with HIV. Also, it is possible to infect others with HIV, even if the person with the virus has absolutely no symptoms, adding that one cannot tell simply by looking at someone whether he or she is infected.