By Gabriel Olawale

More than 3,000 athletes presented themselves for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV testing and counselling at the 2019  Access Bank Lagos City Marathon.

Cross Section of the 2017 Access Bank Lagos City Marathon Participant at the starting point in National Stadium Surulere Lagos.At the 2017 Access Bank Lagos City Marathon in Lagos.PHOTO;AKEEM SALAU

Speaking during the screening which was put together by Nigeria Business Coalition against AIDS, NIBUCAA and HACEY Health Initiative, Executive Secretary of NiBUCCA, Gbenga Alabi said the programme should serve as a case study for government and the private sector to end spread of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.

Alabi noted that while leveraging on the global event, the exercise seeks to promote HIV prevention messages to over 1 million Nigerians through the internet and engagements in other social events like the Access Bank marathon.

“We still have miles to go, as the latest UNAIDS report shows, and that includes reaching people living with HIV who do not know their status and ensuring that they are linked to quality care and prevention services,” Alabi said.

In the same vein, Project Director, HACEY Health Initiative, Isaiah Owolabi, noted that the HIV and AIDS epidemic in Nigeria calls for more investments.

According to him, “UNAIDS recommends that HIV prevention efforts must be reinvigorated if the world is to stay on the Fast-Track to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.”

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“The UNAIDS Prevention gap report shows that worldwide an estimated 1.9 million adults have become infected with HIV every year for at least the past five years and that the number of new HIV infections is rising in some regions,” Owolabi added.

Also, Head of Sustainability, Access Bank Plc, Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan, said “HIV testing is essential for expanding treatment and ensuring that all people living with HIV can lead healthy and productive lives.”

She noted that continuous testing is crucial to achieving the 90–90–90 targets and empowering people to make choices about HIV prevention to protect themselves and their loved ones.

Victor-Laniyan, however, urged members of the society to desist all forms of stigmatisation against HIV and AIDS patients.

“Unfortunately, many barriers to HIV testing remain stigma and discrimination still deters people from taking an HIV test.”

She urged other stakeholders to also provide access to confidential HIV testing to members of the society.

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Programme Officer, HACEY Health Initiative, Mary Adeoye said the free testing programme was one of many ways the organisation contributes its quota in curbing the spread of HIV and AIDS.

She urged tested persons to ensure continuous testing and inform other persons, “spread the news and not the virus. HIV testing doesn’t kill, it is to know your status,” Adeoye said.

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