…Over 700,000 on anti retroviral drug
By Sam Eyoboka, Johnbosco Agbakwuru and PETER DURU, MAKURDI
As Nigeria joined the world in celebrating the World AIDS Day, the country still remains second largest AIDS epidemic in the world and with shortage of testing kits and anti retroviral drugs.
The Country Director of One Campaign, an international advocacy group, Serah Makka-Ugbabe said this in Abuja yesterday on a workshop on the role of Primary Healthcare facilities in addressing the HIV/AIDS Epidemic.
She lamented that most people that were willing to test to know their status often times became disappointed as a result of lack of test kits and the drugs for those that are living with the virus.
However, The Country Director, Serah Makka-Ugbabe said as a global member based advocacy organisation that get people to join them and advocate for causes, the primary aim of One Campaign was to eliminate poverty and that the organization was looking at the health sector in Nigeria.
She said, “We want to find out what it takes to ensure that every Nigeria that is living with HIV/Aids or that gets the disease is treated. Nigeria has the second largest Aids epidemic in the world and also has the worst treatment in the world.
“When you can have your drugs for HIV/Aids, you reduce your virus load and the disease can become dormant but the problem is that many people don’t get access to the treatment especially those in the rural communities because the primary healthcare is not working.
“We have to put pressure on the government to make sure that they work so that people can have access to care and treatments because the fewer the people have access, the more it spreads, so it is a danger situation.”
Over 300,000 persons living with HIV/AIDS in Benue – AHF
Meanwhile, no fewer than 300,000 persons are reported to be living with HIV/AIDS in Benue state, representing 15.4 percent prevalent rate.
Of the said number, not more than 160,000 are yet to access treatment for the virus while close to 140,000 are currently undergoing treatment.
Acting Director, Aids Healthcare Foundation, AHF, Dr. Greg Abiaziam who made this known yesterday on the occasion of the commemoration of the 2017 World AIDS Day held in Makurdi noted that the most vulnerable among those currently living with the virus in the state were girls in their adolescence.
Dr. Abiaziam said “In Benue state where we are working and with the current national survey carried in 2014, the state is the highest with 15.4 percent prevalence, which is unacceptably high and that is why we are working hard as stakeholders to bring the figure down.”
The AHF representative said “We have over 300, 000 people living with HIV and AIDS in Benue. Out of this number, 140, 000 HIV patients are currently undergoing treatment in the state.”
“Of the number the adolescent girl are the most vulnerable and we need to reach out to them, that is why government must put more funds into HIV projects to keep the service going to reduce the prevalence.”
Continuing he said “the statistic we have currently shows that over one million deaths have been recorded globally as a result of HIV/AIDS as at 2016. We have about 2million persons that are newly infected with HIV, while 20 million persons are currently without treatment.”
Dr. Abiaziam explained that the reason for the World AIDS Day celebration was to create awareness and to launch a fast track initiatives on testing and counseling which was an avenue to reach out to the populace to enable them come out for testing in order to know their status.
According to him “Statistically, we have not really done well in terms of testing and treatment services. We therefore advocate that people come out for testing so as to receive counselling and early treatment.
“We want to see how we can bridge the gap. We must hold our government accountable to see that they keep their promises that more funds are committed to HIV/AIDS activities.”
“We simply have to keep the promise on AIDS by ensuring that everyone needing HIV/AIDS services, irrespective of ability to pay has access to it.” The acting Directed stated.
WCC urges focus on children
The World Council of Churches in partnership with Ecumenical Advocacy
Alliance (WCC-EAA) also marked World AIDS Day yesterday bringing together representatives of faith-based organiz-ations as well as public sector and inter-governmental organiz-ations at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva.
The event saw a commemorative prayer service, an interactive art exhibition, and a round-table discussion on how to improve access to testing and treatment for children and adolescents living with HIV, particularly by means of education.
“The World Council of Churches engages in issues of HIV and AIDS through two ecumenical initiatives,” explained WCC deputy general secretary, Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri.
“But for many of us, we do not just engage in these issues because it is our job, but because of who we are, and where we come from. The challenges of HIV and AIDS are issues that touch and affect us personally,” the deputy secretary-general said.