November 24, 2020

HIV/AIDS: FG laments poor response to testing, begs citizens to embrace it


Rolls out empowerment scheme for indigent women living scourge

By Joseph Erunke – Abuja

The federal government, Tuesday, lamented the low response of people to HIV/AIDS testing, appealing to citizens to embrace it.

This was as it disclosed that a number of measures have been put in place to empower poor women in rural communities living with the disease.

The Director-General of the National Agency for Control of AIDS,Dr Gambo Aliyu, speaking at the 2020 World AIDS Day celebration in Abuja, also regretted that the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely impacted the HIV/AIDS programmes in the country.

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Gambo, who identified stigma and discrimination as major causes of low response to testing, vowed that his organisation would be at the forefront of the fight against such issues.

Speaking further at the event with the theme: “United to End AIDS in the Midst of COVID-19: Get Tested”, the NACA boss said:”This is very important because this year’s HIV/AIDS response is different and it is different because of COVID-19.”

Aliyu said the agency was scrutinizing its data to find out the real impact of COVID-19 on the people living with HIV/AIDS in the country.

“We have had and we have seen the impacts of COVID-19 on HIV programme. Even though we are scrutinizing our data to find out the real impact of COVID-19 on the people living with HIV/AIDS.

“But one thing that we know without even looking at our data is, we know that in terms of dare economic realities, COVID-19 has a negative impact or adverse impact compared to other average population and because of that, recently, we launched a project in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs,” he said.

“This project is basically PPE but not PPE that you see but the PPE to protect and empower people living with HIV/AIDS,” he added.

According to him, indigent women living in rural communities “find it difficult to go to facilities to collect medication.”

“They also find it difficult to earn living and we are focusing on women simply because we know that in terms of equality when it comes to business and when it comes to empowerment, women are disadvantaged.

“And because of that, we want to, first of all, take care of women living with HIV/ AIDS before we focus our attention on men. And in the next couple of months, you will see us out in the community,” he explained.

He said: “As early as this week, we are flagging off this project to empower women living with HIV AIDS who are indigent. We will teach them how to do small businesses at the community level and give them seed money to initiate those businesses.”

“This NACA is determined to continue until the end of the year and in 2021, to make sure that we reach the most disadvantaged living with HIV AIDS across the country and empower them,” he stressed.

He appealed to the private sector to join in the government’s efforts to see this through.

“We are calling on the private sector to join us in this effort just as they joined us last two years in our efforts to find a solution to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the country. We were very grateful to the private sector for coming out with this initiative with such fund,” he said.

The NACA boss thanked President Muhammad Buhari for his support to the agency so far, saying his organisation has not had it so good as now.

Hear him: “In terms of government’s commitment, we are very grateful to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for funding NACA with the kind of funding that we haven’t seen in recent years and for keeping to his pledge of putting 100,000 people living with HIV AIDS on treatment within domestic resources.”

“So together, we will fight and together, we will be out in the community to fight stigma and discrimination, to make sure that people have the courage and confidence to get tested for HIV.

“For, it is only when people agree to get tested that our dream will be realized. Without testing, there is no way that we can identify individuals that are out there and living with HIV/AIDS,” he said, adding: “I want everyone here to take this message to the lowest community that you can have access to and that message is ‘get tested and get tested’ now.”

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Recall that every year, the global community including Nigeria celebrates World AIDS Day to raise awareness of the AIDS pandemic.

The occasion presents an opportunity to support people living with HIV/AIDS and also the people affected by HIV/AIDS.

This year’s theme of the celebration is Global Solidarity and Shared Responsibility. But in Nigeria, the theme is “United to End AIDS in the Midst of COVID-19:Get Tested.”

Vanguard News Nigeria