By Vera SAMUEL-ANYAGAFU
AT the public forum to commemorate the world development information day, held at the America Corner, in Lagos recently, the need for government to tackle the problem of poverty as well as stigma and discrimination among Nigerians came to the fore yet again.
The event was held by the United States Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria, under the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief (PEPFAR). The Co-ordinator, Mrs. Chinwe Ada Agbakoba, who spoke at the ocassion, noted that lack of awareness, poverty and stigmatisation were key factors still fuelling new infections and urged one and all to know their HIV status.
She lamented that despite enlightenment efforts by the American Corner, other government agencies and NGOs, it was saddening that people, even the very learned still lacked adequate knowledge about HIV.
Among issues raised during the interactive session by participants include the effect of extended family system in an African setting and lack of social welfare. It was observed that in areas, where HIV & AIDS cases where high, it presented a situation in which the aged who were supposed to be taken care of, were the ones catering for the young members of the family who are down with AIDS.
Children orphaned by the epidemic are discriminated against thus, the social interaction and economic development of the country is affected, employers of labour’s attitude towards infected persons and the subsequent termination of their appointment, was frowned out.
Co-ordinator of Reading for development initiative, Mrs. Chinyelu Anyiam-Osigwe beratedmothers for failing to tell the truth to their children as regards sexuality, noted that the government and NGOs are not doing enough to create awareness on the prevention of the spread of HIV as people continue to engage in risky behaviour, in addition to improper information as to how anti-retroviral drugs work.
In a vote of thanks, two Persons Living With HIV, PLWH, expressed appreciation to PEPFAR for being instrumental to their living a healthy life. One of them, Julia who is now a mother of children who are HIV negative enjoined Nigerians not to discriminate against PLWHA but rather see the HIV infection as ailments like hypertension, diabetes or cancer. That way, the spread would be curtailed, she observed.
PEPFAR has since inception in Nigeria, achieved tremendous results in the areas of free diagnosis and antiretroviral treatment for PLWH, including pregnant women.