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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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As The World Celebrates World AIDS Day…

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As the world marks another World AIDS Day (WAD) today, Wednesday, December 1, 2021, the stage is set again for an appraisal of sort to determine the extent to which countries in the world have fared individually and as groups in the quest to end the spread of HIV/AIDS, particularly from the previous year to the present.
Since the emergence of HIV 40 years ago, and its subsequent declaration as a pandemic, so much have been done to ensure that from being regarded as a death sentence in the beginning, an infected person can now live a successful life after all. But even in its present status as an ailment that can be put under check like other ailments, there have been lapses which have made it more difficulty in attaining set goals in the fight against the pandemic.
Consequently, each year a target is earmarked for accomplishment globally, and in each country, depending on what is identified as the key issue in the fight against the pandemic.
The global theme for 2021 is “End Inequalities. End AIDS”. Towards this end, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and its partners seek to focus on reaching people left behind with a view to highlight the growing inequalities in access to essential HIV services.
In his 2021 WAD message to the world, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), TedrosAdhanom, stated that 37. 7million persons were estimated to be living with HIV in 2020. In the same year, 80, 000 people were also estimated to have died of HIV-related causes, while 1.5million people were newly infected, and 73per cent of people living with HIV received life-long antiretroviral therapy (ART).
According to him, in spite of the fact that the world has recorded notable achievements in recent years in checking the trend of the pandemic, it has remained a threat to society, and that specifically the targets set for 2020 could not be achieved.
In his words, “Although the world has made significant progress in recent decades, important global targets for 2020 were not met.
“Division, disparity and disregard for human rights are among the failures that allowed HIV to become and remain a global health crisis. Now, COVID-19 is exacerbating inequities and disruptions to services, making the lives of many people living with HIV more challenging”, he said..
The WHO boss, therefore, called on leaders in countries and their citizenry to “rally to confront the inequalities that drive AIDS, and to reach people who are currently not receiving essential HIV services”.
On her part, the Executive Director of the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Winnie Byanyima, warned that AIDS remains a pandemic, and the world can only end it by the targeted 2030 if an end can be put to inequalities that drive the pandemic in countries.
“Where leaders are acting boldly and together, bringing together cutting-edge science, delivering services that meet all people’s needs, protecting human rights and sustaining adequate financing, AIDS-related deaths and new HIV infections are becoming rare.
“But this is only the case in some places and for some people.
“Without the inequality-fighting approach we need to end AIDS, the world would also struggle to end the COVID-19 pandemic and would remain unprepared for the pandemics of the future. That would be profoundly dangerous for us all.
“On our current trajectory, we aren’t bending the curve fast enough and risk an AIDS pandemic lasting decades. We have to move faster on a set of concrete actions agreed by United Nations Member States to address the inequalities that are driving HIV.
“We urgently need sufficient community-led and community-based infrastructure as part of a strong public health system, underpinned by robust civil society accountability.
“We need policies to ensure fair and affordable access to science. Every new technology should reach each and everyone who needs it without delay.
“We need to protect our health workers and expand their numbers to meet our urgent needs. We must protect human rights and build trust in health systems.
“It is these that will ensure we close the inequality gaps and end AIDS. But they are too often applied unevenly, are underfunded and are underappreciated.
“World leaders must work together urgently to tackle these challenges head-on. I urge you: be courageous in matching words with deeds.
“If we take on the inequalities that hold back progress, we can deliver on the promise to end AIDS by 2030. It is in our hands”, the UNAIDS boss concluded.
In line with tackling peculiar challenges by countries, Nigeria’s theme for the 2021 WAD is “End Inequalities! End AIDS! Through Sustainable Financing”, which is in realisation of the fact that availability of the require fund to execute necessary programmes is a key challenge as the 2030 target to end HIV draws closer.
In his 2021 WAD message to the people of Rivers State, the State Commissioner for Health, Professor Princewill Chike, noted that Nigeria, and Rivers State, particularly, has recorded significant progress in combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the last few years.
“A recalibration of the HIV epidemic showed a significant decline in the HIV prevalence from 5.8% in 2001 to 1.3% in 2018. Presently in Nigeria, it is estimated that 1.7 million people live with HIV in Nigeria of which 90% are aware of their HIV status, 96% are on treatment and 84% are virally suppressed.
“Despite the challenges and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the HIV programme in Rivers State continued to record greater successes in identification, diagnosis, treatment, care and support for those in need of these services”, the Commissioner said.
Professor Chike further noted that all efforts made by the State Government in checking the trend of the pandemic in the State was made possible by what he called the “tremendous commitment in actualizing the NEW Rivers vision of repositioning health sector to meet international best standards”, by Governor Nyesom Wike, through the provision of necessary health equipment and infrastructural facilities in the State.
“Achieving an HIV free generation is a task that this administration is proud to pursue. Working together in solidarity, we are right on track to ending the HIV/ AIDS epidemic, and building a healthier, safer world for all of us”, the Commissioner said.
He, therefore called on citizens of the State to “rally in confronting the inequalities that drive AIDS and to reach people who are currently not receiving essential HIV services”
Emphasizing on the importance of finance in the fight against the pandemic, and also noting that Mother-To-Child Transmission (MTCT) of HIV/AIDS constitutes a reasonable number of HIV infection, Dr. Abiola Davies, an expert in Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission (PMTCT) called on more financial commitment on the part of State Governments.
“One of the major challenges we’ve had since the commencement (of PMTCT) is that most of the programming in Nigeria, HIV programming, including PMTCT, it’s mainly donor driven. That means we have a developing agents organisation that is putting funding towards programming.
“Definitely, Government provides healthcare workers to work in the facilities. But when you talk about test kits, drugs and the tests that need to be done, they are mainly done by development organisations.
“I will love to see that Government puts more money, that it’s more driven by Government in funding to walk the talk”, she stated, adding that “obviously, who pays the piper dictates the tune, and if development agency has its own agenda they pursue sometimes, it may not always align with the agenda of the Government”.
Aligning with Dr Davies, the Director-General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), GamboAliyu, decried what he described as Nigeria’s over-dependence on foreign funding for the campaign against HIV/AIDS.
He said; “Between 2005 and 2018, about $6.2 billion dollars was spent to identify close to one million people living with HIV in this country and place them on treatment.
“However 80 per cent of this money came from international donors and development partners. Only 18 per cent was contributed by the Federal and State Governments, and one per cent came from the private sector”.
Mr Aliyu said it is essential for national and state stakeholders to assume greater ownership of the HIV response, including financing and strong accountability structures, adding that he was committed to mobilising local resources towards achieving the agency’s objective.

By: Sogbeba Dokubo

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Utilise Free HIV Services, Banigo Tells Rivers People

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Rivers State Deputy Governor, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo has urged People Living with HIV/AIDS to avail themselves of the free HIV/AIDS services in all 23 LGAs of the state.
Banigo stated this in her goodwill message in Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday, to mark World AIDS Day.
According to the deputy governor, the call became necessary in view of the fact that the AIDS control programme has achieved 96% viral suppression for people currently on treatment, adding that Governor Nyesom Wike’s decision to abolish user fees for PLWAs has given succour to both the infected and affected.
The public health physician, who said about 177,524 number of people were on treatment in 116 Anti-Retroviral Treatment Sites, revealed that Anti Retro Viral Drugs are available and free in the state, including Community Testing Services.
The deputy governor, who insisted that HIV/AIDs was not a death sentence, frowned against discrimination and stigmatisation of people living with the virus, stressing that all they need is our love and support.
December 1 has been set aside to mark the World AIDS Day each year.
The theme for 2021 celebration is: “Ending the HIV Epidemic: Equitable Access, Every One’s Voice”.
Meanwhile, as the world commemorates the 2021 World AIDS Day (WAD), today, the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Princewill Chike, has called on Rivers people to support efforts being made by the state government towards checking the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the state.
Making the call in his WAD message, the commissioner emphasised on the need for everyone to be involved at their various levels.
“I urge you to be an advocate of HIV preventive behaviour in your respective communities and institutions: avoid risky sexual behaviour and encourage pregnant women to register at the health facility nearest to them for antenatal care.
“I call on all citizens of Rivers State to rally in confronting the inequalities that drive AIDS and to reach people who are currently not receiving essential HIV services. Let us all support government efforts to achieve an epidemic control of HIV in our state and the world at large”, he said.
He noted that like the Federal Government, the Rivers State Government has recorded notable progress in checking the pandemic.
“Over the last few years, Nigeria in general, and Rivers State, in particular, has recorded significant progress in the war against HIV/AIDS. A recalibration of the HIV epidemic showed a significant decline in the HIV prevalence from 5.8% in 2001 to 1.3% in 2018.
“Presently in Nigeria, it is estimated that 1.7 million people live with HIV in Nigeria of which 90% are aware of their HIV status, 96% are on treatment, and 84% are virally suppressed.
“Despite the challenges and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the HIV programme in Rivers State continued to record greater successes in identification, diagnosis, treatment, care and support for those in need of these services.
The state health boss used the opportunity to highlight some of the efforts of the state government to strengthen the health sector.
“As we mark this day here in Rivers State, it is pertinent to underscore the huge efforts by government to strengthen health care delivery frameworks for better service delivery.
“His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, has shown tremendous commitment in actualising the NEW Rivers Vision of repositioning health sector to meet international best standards.
“The establishment of the state-owned Medical School at the Rivers State University, completion of the Mother and Child Hospital, ongoing Renal Centre and the Peter Odili Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease Diagnostic and Treatment Centre in Port Harcourt are eloquent testimonies of the giant strides of the governor of Rivers State in raising the standards of health service delivery”.
According to the commissioner, the state has made significant progress in confronting HIV/AIDS epidemic in the state by identifying people living with HIV/AIDS, putting them on treatment and ensuring that they are able to live normal lives by achieving viral suppression.
“This has been made possible through innovative user-fee waiver by His Excellency, the acquisition of multiple diagnostic and monitoring equipment, community models of HIV service delivery and differentiated model of care that enables the tailoring of treatment services to patient’s convenience”, he said.
Also, as part of on-going programmes and highlights for the World AIDS Day commemoration, he explained, the State AIDS & STIs Control Programme in collaboration with its supporting partners have already embarked on massive case finding and linkage to care for identified positive persons in all the local government areas of the state.
“Achieving an HIV free generation is a task that this administration is proud to pursue. Working together in solidarity, we are right on track to ending the HIV/ AIDS epidemic, and building a healthier, safer world for all of us”, he concluded.
The theme for this year’s commemoration of WAD is: “End Inequality, End AIDS Through Sustainable HIV Financing”.

By: Sogbeba Dokubo

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EDOSACA Boss Calls For Renewed Fight Against HIV/AIDS

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Executive Director of the Edo State Agency for the Control of AIDS (EDOSACA), Mrs Flora Edemode Oyakhilome, has called on stakeholders to show more commitment to the prevention of HIV/AIDS, if the 2030 target of eliminating the epidemic can be achieved.
This is in the light of seeming less attention given to the HIV/AIDS pandemic since the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria.
Making the call recently in Port Harcourt, while fielding questions from journalists shortly after the two-day South-South HIV media roundtable, the EDOSACA boss said the 38th International AIDS Candlelights Memorial was implemented in Edo State.
According to her, the commemoration should serve as a reminder for both those infected and affected, as well as the vulnerable in our society of those who have died as a result of the pandemic.
She stated that the theme for this year’s commemoration, “One Big Fight for Health and Rights of People Living with HIV”, is apt.
“With just  nine years to go in the UNAIDS ambitious targets of eliminating HIV/AIDS by the year 2030 through the 95:95:95 strategy aimed at achieving zero new infection by 2030, the well chosen theme for this year’s memorial, which is  ‘One Big Fight for Health and Rights of People Living with HIV’, is nothing but a renewed call for girding our loins and redoubling our efforts towards the achievement of this target, especially with globally increasing rates of societal and workplace stigma and discrimination, and domestic gender-based violence, as well other acts of rights denial against People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHIV).
“The right time is  now or never for all soldiers and gatekeepers in the global war against this most lingered pandemic to join efforts, time and resources towards greater outcomes and dividends from this year’s theme, which encapsulates in one dose the non-pharmaceutical panecea against HIV/AIDS”, she said.
Towards this renewed fight, the EDOSACA boss urged stakeholders to turn a new leaf.
“As the event is marked today, all should go into sober reflection over the plight of those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, as well as the vulnerable one not yet infected and work towards the  mitigation of their sufferings and plan for greater improvement in their living standards through economic and academic empowerment, capacity  building, skills aqusition and skills improvement, nutritional support, access to quality health services, free prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission (PMTCT) services, free legal aids, etc., especially for Adolescents and Young People (AYP), widows and orphans,” he said.

By: Sogbeba Dokubo

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