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HIV/AIDS: 3.5m Sexually Active Nigerians Infected – SFH

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The Society for Family Health (SFH) says over 3.5 million sexually active youths within the ages of 15 to 24 years are already living with the HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.

The Regional Manager of Society for Family Health, Ms Ofurum Oluchi, who stated this during the SFH stakeholders forum in dissemination of SFH programmes in Port Harcourt said about 33.2 million are also infected with HIV globally.Of these numbers  that are infected, about 50 percent are women, while 2.7 million are new cases, and deaths due to AIDS accounts for 2 million.

About14,000 new infections occur everyday and more than 9.5 per cent are in low and middle income countries adding that almost half of the new infections are among adolescents and youths.

She said that the prevalence was higher among those with primary and secondary level of education and least among those Qu’amic only saying that there was a declining HIV prevalence trend among women within the age of 15 – 24 years from 2001 to 2008.

She further explained that the prevalence rate of the infection in Rivers State ranges from 1 per cent  in 1996 to 7.3 per cent in 2008.

“The reason for such increase in prevalence rate is 7.3 that the rate of intervention and enlightenment  has increased, so more people are beginning to come out from their hide outs to access treatment and also to ascertain their HIV status in the hospitals.

On her part, Mrs Obianuju Mike Omelu of SFH said, her organisation has been able to conduct intensive intervention in 12 communities reaching a total of 101,850 person during formal outreache programme in the communities between 2005 – 2007, while comprehensive integrated HIV prevention and care intervention from 2008 to 2009 with 105 peer educators have reached over 25,380 persons.

Sogbeba Dokubo

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Expert Hinges HIV/AIDS Containment On Countries’ Health Systems

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Towards checking the trend of HIV/AIDS, particularly Mother-To-Child Transmission (MTCT), an expert in HIV, Dr. Olugbenga Ijaodola, has identified health systems operated by countries as major factor.

Dr. Ijaodola, who made this disclosure at an ongoing three-day media dialogue to reinvigorate and produce a workplan for members of the Journalists Alliance for the Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, noted that everything that can be done is dependent on the system.

Ijaodola, who is the PMTCT Lead, National AIDS and Sexually Transmited Infections (STIs) Control Programme (NASCP), in the Federal Ministry of Health, explained that this is why challenges caused by such barriers are approached accordingly.

“One thing we have noticed is that HIV/AIDS intervention cannot stand on its own. It also depends on the health system of any particular country”, he said.

The Assistant Director at NASCP explained that no matter the challenges in Nigeria, plans are made to ensure that pregnant women are able to have access to health facilities, and all of them are tested.

“Those we find positive we are able to link them up and put them on treatment, and even encourage them to deliver in the facilities, so that we can have access the babies for Early Infant Diagnosis (EID) services”, he said.

He, therefore, called on all participating Journalists at the media dialogue, as key stakeholders, to carry the message of the need for all pregnant women to access health care facilities where they can have HIV/AIDS intervention services.

“Definitely we know that there are challenges that goes along with the health care system. That will not stop us from what we believe is the right thing to do to push this forward.

“The way we are looking at it now, is to continuously collectively agree to do this together. I can assure you that if we do this, we are going to change the narrative concerning the coverage across board of PMTCT in Nigeria, and then we can start talking about the process towards elimination of MTCT”, he said.

By: Sogbeba Dokubo

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A’Ibom Assembly Passes Free Treatment Of Sexual Abuse Victims Bill

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The Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly has passed a Bill on Free and Compulsory Medical Treatment and Care for Child Victims of Sexual Violence into Law.
Presenting the report, the Chairman, House Committee on Women Affairs, Hon. Princess Felicia Bassey, harped on the need to protect children who are victims of sexual abuse and provide “free, complete, and compulsory medical treatment and care”. 
Princess Bassey, who is also the Deputy Speaker of the House, lamented that sexual abuse against children has become a common phenomenaon noting that while perpetrators sometimes go unpunished, victims are denied access to free health care services and in some cases no official report is made of the incident.
The committee, therefore, recommended among other things that child victims of sexual violence should be given free and compulsory medical treatment and a sexual assault referral centre should be set up.
Other recommendations are that any hospital that fails to report cases of sexual violence or abuse is liable to a fine of one million naira. 
Also, parents or guardians who fail to report or prevent a hospital from making a report of casea of sexual violence is liable to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 3 months with no option of fine.
The committee further recommended that any person, authority, including Police Officer or Security Agent that stands by and fails to perform his duty under the law has committed an offence and is liable upon conviction to a fine of five hundred thousand naira or imprisonment for two years or both.
The House, after a clause by clause affirmation, adopted the recommendations of the committee and passed the bill into law after its third reading.

By: Sogbeba Dokubo

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NACA Launches HIV Media Advocacy Platform

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In continuation of efforts to create more awareness on HIV/AIDS, the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), has  launched a national HIV media advocacy platform.
The platform, which, among others, comprises media representatives from different states of the country, and head of public relations unit and zonal coordinators of NACA, is expected to also focus on the ways media report HIV/AIDS in the country.
Inaugurating the platform, the Director General (DG)  of the NACA, Dr GamboAliyu, said, “the platform is expected to create more awareness  on HIV, and also change the way the media reports it, using the best approach”.
The Director General who was represented at the occasion by the South-West Zonal Coordinator of the agency, Raheem Mohammed, said the media was a critical stakeholder in the agency’s partnership efforts towards getting messages across to the public, and hence ending the epidemic by 2030.
“Media involvement, engagement and support is key in HIV  response to ensure synergy in what the media reports and what NACA does”, he said.
According to him, NACA “is concentrating on building media capacity because it is a powerful tool in catalysing change at individual, community and policy levels.
“NACA’s vision in the National HIV strategic framework is for Nigeria to be a nation of people with functional knowledge of HIV/AIDS.
“The Agency is focused on increasing visibility of the HIV responses by steadfastly strengthening the strategic partnerships among stakeholders at all levels.
 ”We are concentrating on building media’s capacity as a powerful tool to catalyse change at individual, community and policy levels. Ours is to equip them and see how essential it is that all populations are well informed and knowledgeable about the risks of HIV infection, prevention, treatment and care for ending the HIV and AIDS epidemic in Nigeria,” the NACA boss said.
Speaking at the occasion, the Chief of Party, Johns Hopkins” Programme for International Education in Gyncology (Jhpiego), Emmanuel Atuma, said the platform was expected to be a rallying point that would shape discussion on HIV, and continually keep it on the front burner.
He said the training workshop was deliberately tailored for the media as an important move towards consolidating on the value of institutional partnerships, as well as collaboration with the mass media to ensure that the media became significantly involved in the forefront of HIV and AIDS response in Nigeria.
“The current National HIV strategic framework recognises that strengthening the use of social media platforms and traditional media to communicate a health promotion agenda is vitally important. Media is a strategic ally in the fight to end HIV/AIDS in Nigeria”, he stated, adding that “training journalists and setting up of HIV advocacy platform at the national level is therefore an excellent initiative by NACA”.
He continued that, “the media is strategically positioned to promote safer behaviour by challenging the norms, values and culture that fuel risky behaviour, if they are well informed.
“This  four-day training will additionally equip the media with skills in designing effective change programmes, developing stories that create impact, as well as advocacy skills –how they can maximise the power of the media as an advocacy agent to catalyse social change and influence HIV related policies,” he said.
DrAliyu also used the opportunity to inform participants that President MuhammaduBuhari would launch  a national trust fund on HIV before the end of this year.
He said the trust fund would help lift the heavy burden on the government for domestic funding and ownership of the HIV response.
“We have gotten the commitment of all those that matter in the private sector for the trust fund,” he said.
The workshop, which was held  in Lagos, was in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Program for International Education in Gynecology and Obstetrics (Jhpiego).

By: Sogbeba Dokubo

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