By Chioma Obinna
As statistics from UNAIDS show that a total of 180,000 Nigerians have died from HIV/AIDS the Centre for the Right To Health, CRH, has called for the reinforcement of HIV/AIDS programmes in schools as part of measures to halt the spread among adolescents.
In a chat with Good Health Weekly during a sensitisation programme/presentation of Award to outstanding healthcare workers by CRH to mark this year’s World AIDS Day in Lagos, the Programme Director, CRH, Mrs Christy Ekerete- Udofia said scaling up HIV programmes in primary, Secondary Schools including Universities would help the country to achieve the 90-90-90 targets for testing, treatment and viral suppression by 2030.
Ekerte-Udofia who stressed the need for government to adequately fund HIV programmes in schools, said even though Nigeria is on track for the 90-90-90 target, the country has not done enough to reduce spread of HIV among adolescents.
“For instance, in countries like South Africa, before an adolescent goes to school, condoms are stuck in his/her bag but in Nigeria, our perception about condom use has not changed. When you find someone with condom it is like a taboo. But we need to face reality and start teaching our young ones about sex education. Many adolescents are initiated into sexual act very early in life out of peer pressure and they are not able to negotiate condom use. The schools are not able to distribute condoms and the government are not key funders in terms of programmes.
“If we are able to curb the spread in schools we will be able to reduce HIV among adolescents. It should also be seen as a collective responsibility to ensure that the AIDS epidemic come to a standstill.”
She said being diagnosed with HIV today is no longer a death sentence but attitudes can make living with HIV really hard, hence the need to end stigma.
The CRH is currently contributing its quota to the fight against HIV through its SHiPs for MarPs Project, One- Stop-Shop, OSS, for free treatment of HIV which is fully in operation currently.
Ekerete-Udofia explained that at the treatment centre, CRH counsels, test and place positive persons on treatment free of charge.
“In this centre, we have been able to see that 90 percent of people get tested, 90 percent tested are placed on treatment and 90 percent retained treatment and have reduced to barest minimum level of viral load. That we have been able to achieve so far and we are really making positive impact.”