The Regional Medical Manager, Benue Office of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, AHF, Nigeria, Dr. Greg Abiaziem has said that millions of people die of HIV/AIDS because they do not know their status.
He maintained that a robust collaboration on the war against the epidemic would guarantee success in the fight against the scourge in the country.
Dr. Abiaziem who stated this yesterday at the event to mark the 2018 World AIDS Day in Makurdi with the theme ‘Live Life Positively – Know Your Status’ observed that a lot had been achieve in the onslaught against the virus but noted that much needed to be done to achieve victory.
According to him, “In celebrating World Aids day today we are also celebrating those who have died and showing solidarity with people living with HIV and people who are affected by HIV to commemorate the day.
“It is actually a day we come together to celebrate with them and the entire family of those living or those who must have died of HIV.
“It is a very big event for us. We have key stakeholders and other dignitaries who are from Benue state including the Benue state Governor who came to be part of the celebration.
“We also have the development partners who are doing the bulk of the work, not forgetting the CSOs, they are also key in the fight against the HIV scourge in Benue and the entire Nigeria.
“We are all working together to achieve a common objective of reaching a common goal of UNAIDS 90-90-90 which implies that 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status. By 2020, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy.
“Over the years in the last seven years since we started our activities in Benue state, we have always celebrated this day. It’s not something new for us. Its a process that we have been engaged in.
“This year’s own has been very unique because of the theme and we are aligning this thought with the UNAIDS 90-90-90 because there are a lot of people out there that don’t know that they have HIV.
“They only way you may know is by getting tested. That is why the theme for this year is very apt for us because we want to see that a lot of persons come out to be test.
“For us that is the entry point in everything that you do in HIV services. It is only when you come out to test and you are diagnosed of HIV and you are linked to a proper treatment centre where you will be given the necessary services that is very key.
“And our slogan and something we always do in AHF, which is, we always kept the promise. That is why we are calling on the government agencies, we are calling on the CSOs, we are calling on everybody that matters to keep the promise to HIV.
“We want to keep the promise on HIV to ensure that more persons are actually tested, more persons are placed on treatment and more importantly for us, more person would have viral suppression which is actually very key to achieving epidemic control. That is the reason we are actually here, it goes with the theme of this year’s celebration.
“I must say we are gradually getting to the point of wining the war on HIV. I will not say the war has been completely won. The war is not completely won here in Benue state because there is more to be done.
“Like I said, there is still a lot of persons out there on the streets, in the urban cities, even people in the villages that don’t even know anything about HIV. More importantly, people don’t even have the knowledge of how HIV is transmitted.
“So we are actually in a cross roads, but we are actually educating people through messages to let them know what HIV is all about, the current myth and misconception about HIV.
“More importantly is access, that is why I said the war is not completely won, a lot of communities do not have access to where they can even go and test for HIV. Except you go to them.
“So the government has a very key roll to play. At one point they said they want in all wards a treatment centre to be domiciled but we have not achieved that yet.
“In as much as the government is actually doing its best, I must acknowledge that the Benue State AIDS Control Agency, BENSACA, and the Benue state government are doing a fantastic job, more needs to be done because a lot of people are still out there that don’t know that they have HIV but it is when they know their status that we will now see how we can facilitate their linkage to the treatment clinics.
“So the war is not completely won but I know that it is not a one man show, it is a collaborative effort of everybody that matters in the fight against HIV. We are all there to ensure a full and robust collaboration in ensuring the epidemic control.
“Like I said earlier, we want to empower a lot of persons to know their status.
“Since this week, starting from last Sunday, we started testing people in different communities. Not only in Makurdi, we are also testing in Gboko currently and we are also holding a similar event in Gboko as well.
“So the event is holding in Gboko and since Sunday we have been testing in various communities. And another thing that is also key for us is that we are also supporting a cooking competition for the in-school youths.
“These group of persons are actually a neglected population, so we are also using that medium to bring them together, share HIV messages, share information and messages of sexual and reproductive health to them so that they would also know, because that age is a very vulnerable age. So they need to understand what HIV/AIDS is all about and how they can get protected.
“We are reaching out to them and supporting that activity in Mount Saint Gabriel Secondary School Makurdi. We are reaching out to a good number of them there and also getting the right message across to them and we are preaching abstinence.
“We are targeting children from different schools in that programme. We are expecting about 300 students who would obviously come with their pairs, relatives and parents who would come and give them support in the competition which is the grand finale of the process that started last month.
“We are part of the sponsors of that competition with other sponsors as well.
“I must add that AHF Nigeria felicitates with the good people and responsive government of Benue State, particularly the BENSACA on the commemoration of the 2018 World AIDS Day.
“Benue state has recorded great achievements in the fight against HlV/AIDS; this pays tribute to the commitment and dedication of the state towards reducing the size and impact of the epidemic.
“Millions of people still die from HIV/AIDS largely because they do not know their HIV status. Thus, we want to keep the promise by ensuring a lot of persons know their status which is aligning with this year’s theme of Know Your Status.
“As we join the rest of the world in commemorating this World AIDS Day, it is important to note that we cannot rest on our oars. more still needs to be done to expand coverage and access to HIV testing and treatment in Benue state.
“We sincerely thank the people and government of Benue State for your support and great partnership, which has helped AHF Nigeria grow tremendously in the state and we believe that together we will achieve an AIDS free Benue.
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In his remark, the Executive Secretary of BENSACA, Gideon Dura, who commended AHF in its role to stem the scourge of the virus in the state assured that the state government would continue to partner the organization to tackle the scourge in the state.