By Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale
Mr. Johnson Aboyie, was a successful transporter until two years ago when he was struck by an illness that neither his family nor friends could account for the cause. Johnson a father of five children and a native of Ondo State operates from Akure, Ondo capital to Oshodi under the bridge. This, he has done in the past 10 years without any problem.
His entire family depended on him for their up keep.Â As a good father, he never turned back on his responsibilities to his wife and children until that faithful morning when he felt, a cramp below his abdomen. Initially, he never knew it was trouble. He carried on with his trade.
Two days later, it became serious and he was rushed to a nearby hospital in Lagos, where he was diagnosed to have Gonorrhea. Further tests also revealed that he has HIV. He was faced with the problem of treating these diseases without further income from no where.Â His business not only collapsed, his five children were thrown out of school while his wife abandoned him to his fate.
So many Nigerian transporters are down with one or more Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) including HIV and AIDS today due to lack of information on the massive spread of these diseases at motor parks and bus stops and similar high- risk areas.
Studies have shown alarming increases of the spread of HIV and AIDS and other STIs among transporters and motor park touts in Nigeria. Unfortunately, Men are bread winners and decision makers, they occupy an important aspect in every family. Most times they donâ€™t acknowledge they have health risk.
In recognition of these facts and others, the Centre For the Right To health and the Population Council, an international organsiation that conducts research worldwide to improve policies, programmes and products in HIV&AIDS amongst others, last week declared that theirÂ â€œMenâ€™s Health Network Nigeria programme is targeting to reach at least 50,000 Nigerian men with freeÂ HIV screening and other STIs and abstinence messages before the end of 2014.
Speaking, at a 5-day outreach programme for high- risk men organised for members ofÂ the National Union of Road Transport Worker (NURTW) Oshodi, Isolo Local Government Area of Lagos State, the Programme Officer of the Population Council, Mr.Olusegun Sangowawa who explained that the free screening and condom distribution was the third in the series,said the intervention programme was mainly to prevent new HIV infection among high – risk men in Nigeria.
Sangowawa who further disclosed that the organisation is already in three States of the country and hope to extend the programme to six more States by the end of 2010 said studies have shown that transport workers could play a major role in the transmission of HIV in urban communities in Nigeria.
He added that the current five days outreach programme is an interventionÂ programme for high risk men at Oshodi.Â
The Programme Officer for CRH, Mrs Christy Ekerete Udofia, who advocated for free checks for HIV and AIDS in public places disclosed that already not less than 1,500 men have been screened, counseled and tested for HIV and AIDS.
She called on the Federal Government to create enabling environment for partners to collaborate in the fight against HIV and AIDS with a view to reaching out to men who are most at risk as well as reducing new infection rates.