As the world celebrates World AIDS
Day (WAD) on Sunday, December 1,
2013, the threat of the disease to global population and economy has remained as potent as it was in 2004, when the United Nations Organisation (UNO) dedicated the day to annually create awareness on the impact of the disease.
Even as statistics of global prevalence rate remains hazy owing to a number of factors, the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) says about 3.4 million Nigerians are living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) which causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
According to NACA, the nation-wide prevalence stabilised at 4 per cent, but more than 12 States still carried higher burden, even as Nigeria is behind target on several important indicators.
Among states with higher burden is Rivers State where the prevalence rate hovers around 6.1 per cent. In fact, Ogbogu Community in Egi Clan of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of the State was recently reported to have recorded a rate of 7.2 percent.
Regrettably, achieving accurate statistics of prevalence for planning and treatment purposes has been a major challenge not only because statistics are updated every three years, but the reluctance of people to go for the test. Also worrisome is the difficulty in accessing statistics from private clinics and traditional birth attendants.
These challenges can only point in one direction – a possible increase in the population of people living with HIV/AIDS, regardless of the Federal Government’s commitment to bringing down the prevalence rate.
As the world focuses on HIV/AIDS, the need to tackle the spread, discrimination and related death in line with the theme: “Getting to Zero New Infection, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS-Related Deaths” remains apt.
This theme which will run till 2015, underscores the importance of the current approach towards substantially reducing new infections and old attitudes towards HIV/AIDS that still ravages the health of many in spite of the advances on the study of the condition.
In Rivers State, the film, STIGMA, produced by the Rivers State Ministry of Health in collaboration with Nollywood and the healthcare industry is billed to premiere at Silver Bird Cinema in Port Harcourt. This will to a large extent capture the attention of a critical mass of the population.
STIGMA, which will feature notable Nollywood artistes and the best special effects in the movie industry, is aimed at sensitising, educating, re-orientating and modeling societal attitude against stigmatisation of people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
The Tide believes, however, that the battle against HIV/AIDS should begin with the encouragement of people to know their status with a view to managing the case as early as possible and avoid its degeneration to AIDS. Also of essence is the avoidance of unprotected sex that can promote the spread.
Reports of absence of anti-retroviral drugs and lack of access to them in parts of the country remains as condemnable as the attitude of some health workers towards people living with HIV/AIDS.
With a youthful, poor and illiterate population in Nigeria, the management of HIV/AIDS can be a major challenge. Added to a recent prediction that new cases may rise in Nigeria from rapid population growth because of recent developments in Mozambique and Tanzania, Nigeria will need to do more than ever to equip her people against such pressures.
We therefore urge schools, churches, faith-based organisations and donor agencies to continue to lend their support to the campaigns against HIV, especially the vulnerable group. Governments across the country should commit more funding to the fight against HIV/AIDS. Added to donor funds the control on the prevalence rate in Nigeria can be improved.
As the world celebrates World AIDS