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Agressive HIV/AIDS Awareness Campaigns Contribute To Reduced Infection In Nigeria

posted 29 Nov 2013, 09:09 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 29 Nov 2013, 09:10 ]

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the World AIDS Day, which carries the 2011 - 2015 theme - "Getting to zero: Zero new HIV infections, Zero discrimination, Zero AIDS related deaths." According to the National Action Committee on AIDS (NACA), Nigeria has about 3.1 million people living with HIV/ADS, with 300,000 new infections occurring yearly among people between the ages of 15 and 24. Activists say that while prevalence has come down, many infected people in Nigeria, still do not feel safe to reveal their status.

 LAGOSNIGERIA (NOVEMBER 28, 2013) (REUTERS) -  HIV/AIDS activists in Nigeria took to the streets of the commercial capital, Lagos this week encouraging residents to know their status, as the world prepares to mark World Aids Day on December 01.

Many heeded the call, rushing to get a free five-minute test at various centres across the city.

Friends Africa, the non-governmental organisation behind the campaign aims to test at least 5,000 people before World's Aids Day.

Ikemba Akudo, chief executive office for Friends Africa says in the past year, Nigeria has seen a significant number of people seeking treatment, which she says is as a result of a robust awareness campaign.

Akudo said the rate of HIV/AIDS infections has gone from 5 percent last year to 4 percent this year.

"Our prevalence of the epidemic is not the highest in Africa, I mean our prevalence is still around close to 4 percent, or just under 4 percent which... but because of the large number of people we have in Nigeria, that then gives us absolute numbers which are significant. But if you go to other countries, in Southern Africa, you will see where the epidemic is like 30 percent of their population, 20 percent of their population, some over 40 percent and that's even much more concerning, because you are talking about almost a third to half of the population of the people," Ikemba said.

Nigeria currently has over three million people living with HIV/AIDS. There are 25 million people infected with the disease in sub-Saharan Africa.

Friends Africa also focuses on tackling the issue of stigmatization, which they hope will lead to fewer infections in Nigeria by 2015.

This woman, who requested for her identity to be hidden is a volunteer caregiver in her community.

In 2009, after her son battled a series of illnesses, which she found out were caused by HIV, she discovered she too was positive, along with her husband who she says has been very supportive.

She says due to stigma in the West African country, she is not ready to disclose her status.

She is eight months pregnant with her fourth child and hopes that with increased awareness, stigma and prejudice towards people living with HIV/AIDS will decrease, and enable her to open up to her family and friends.

"We talk about HIV, we do tests, we counsel people so when I am doing that at home, people will be looking at me, that ha, this woman, what is she doing? That is why I'm thinking if they even know that I have it, they will do more than as they are doing. We will tell people come and do HIV tests, we are doing it, they will say, HIV? God forbid, I will not have it so that's why my neighbours don't know," she said.

Another non-governmental organization, Jakin - set up in a local Lagos suburb provided free HIV/AIDS testing, counselling and psycho-social support for those living with the disease.

The organization has 400 volunteers spread throughout the state and holds a monthly support group meeting for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Adebiyi Bukky, president of Jakin says there are many challenges affecting the fight against HIV/AIDS - most of all is the lack of funding.

"The needs out there are much more than what is coming in and you have so many factors you know, reducing your own possibility of getting funding, you have corruption there, you have the perception of even the giver, you have you know, let me use the word competition because we have so many NGOs set up by different people," the president of the NGO said.

Ikemba added that there is a need for a concentrated efforts in rural areas where new infections are springing up on a daily basis.

"We still have new infections popping up and that's what we want to stop, we want to have zero new infections. These new infections are coming as a result of hot spots where the message has not reached so places, rural areas, places where there is still lack of awareness, population that are kind of isolated from the general population also certain populations where there is high risk sex happening whether it's the commercial sex workers or men who have sex with men. These are hot spots of the epidemic where the message needs to get there," she said.

According to UNAIDS, there is a 3 to 5 billion US dollar shortfall in the annual 22 to 24 billion US dollars needed to turn the tide against the disease.

Funding from international donors for AIDS has flatlined, compounded by the fact that the majority of African governments are also not meeting their commitments to spend 15 percent of their budgets on health.


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