By peter duru Makurdi
Over 16,156 persons die annually in Benue state from the dreaded HIV/AIDS despite efforts by the state government to stem the prevalence of the virus in the state.
The Director, AIDS Control Program at the State Ministry of Health, Dr. Gideon Dura, made this known in a paper he presented at the stakeholders forum organised by Jireh Doo Foundation, JDF, as part of activities to mark the 10th anniversary of the foundation.
Dura further disclosed that “the annual new HIV/AIDS Infections in BenueState stood at 21,259 which means that we need to do more to stem the virus.”
He pointed out that “not less than 11,577 children are infected with the virus annually and among the children with HIV infections, 90% are due to mother to child transmission, MTCT.”
He explained that Child’s HIV accounted for 10% of all HIV infections in the State stressing that HIV infection compounded by underlying malnutrition, malaria, opportunistic infections, anaemia, other childhood illnesses and obstetric emergencies had increased maternal and infant mortality in the state by many folds.
Dura said that the epidemic was currently skewing towards the rural communities stressing that over 60% of those infected were women who had less cultural rights and were continuously oppressed by male dominance in the communities of the State.
He however noted that the achievement of a HIV-free generation was possible “if only the right interventions of HIV were employed to close the right gaps in the right places for the right people, by the right providers with the right support within the right time.” he said.
Also speaking, National Coordinator of JDF, Ms Josephine Habba lamented that stigmatisation and discrimination issues were still hindering increased access and uptake of HIV/AIDS services as well as access to Orphans and Vulnerable children (OVC) in Nigeria.
Habba urged religious and traditional leaders to be more involved in the fight against stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS and children who were orphaned by the disease.
She advocated that the response to the challenges of OVC programming should adequately address the root causes of the critical mass of OVC such as communal conflicts, street children, children with disabilities, children involved in hazardous labour as well as children orphaned by HIV/AIDS among others.