By Peter Duru
MAKURDI â€” As the world celebrated â€˜World AIDS Dayâ€™, a mild drama played out in Makurdi at the ceremony as some members of the State Executive Council andÂ political leaders randomly selected for testing and counselling by Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State, turned down the nomination.
However, the situation was saved by the Deputy Governor, Chief Steven Lawani, and the Special Adviser to the Governor on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. Sam Ode, who rather chose to stand in for all the nominees who preferred to watch from afar as the governor led the way to the counselling and testing canopy.
Earlier in a keynote address on the occasion, Governor Suswam had launched a strategic workplace policy that would ensure the elimination of HIV/AIDS in the state by 2015.
The governor who expressed worry at the current prevalence rate of the disease in the state which he noted was the highest in the country stressed that his administration would continue to do all within its powers to achieve its set target.
According to him, â€œBenue State does not deserve to maintain top position in the country for such a long time. Ours is a religious society with God-fearing people.
â€œBut suffice it to state here that the situation does not translate that we are the most promiscuous in the country; but our attitudes to the things of life have been our greatest undoing,â€ Suswam said.
Suswam blamed the rate of infection to poor sexual attitude of the people, stressing the need for re-orientation as well as adoption of a positive attitude towards health related matters.
While making a case against stigmatisation against people living with the virus, he noted that stigma had continued to drive the prevalence rate to new levels in the state.
â€œWe should stop discrimination and stigmatisation against persons living with the disease. In this way, we will help in fighting the dreaded disease,â€ Suswam said.
The governor, who particularly lamented that HIV/AIDS was depleting the active workforce of the state, further observed that it had accounted for the decline in agricultural activities amongst the people especially the youths.