…calls for more commitment of govt, organizations in fight against HIV
The Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong has given a brief on the current HIV status of the state.
The Commissioner, on Tuesday, March 19, in a press statement made available to journalists said that the state has recorded a decline in the scourge of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
The Health Commissioner noted that the last findings carried out by the Nigeria Aids Indicator and Impact survey (NAIIS), throughout the country in the third and fourth quarter of 2018, and unveiled by President Buhari on March 14, 2019, revealed that Akwa Ibom State has a HIV prevalence of 5.5% against the National prevalence of 1.4% for the age group 15 to 64years.
He recalled a previous research in 2017 by the state government in conjunction with FHI 360 and other partners, with funding from USAID, on the prevalence and incidence of HIV in the State, which revealed a prevalence of 4.8% for the age group 15 to 69 years.
Marrying both results, he said they are both within the same 95% confidence interval ranging from 4.7 to 6.3%.
He stressed that the HIV prevalence in the State is on the decline and not the other way round.
The Commissioner noted that the location of the State with a large coastal front of 129Km stretching from Ikot Abasi to Oron, an airport, good road network peaceful atmosphere, friendly disposition of the people, good cuisines and fast developing economy have made the state a destination of choice for both national and international visitors, all of which he said “are not without attendant public health consequences, like transmission of communicable diseases which HIV/AIDS cannot be excluded”.
Dr. Ukpong however lauded the State government for its commitment in ensuring the health and wellbeing of its people by committing huge amounts to the improvement of health care delivery system of the State.
He maintained that “the current HIV/AIDS situation in the State calls for a more robust multi-sectoral response towards curbing the epidemic in the state”, adding that the Akwa Ibom State Agency for the Control of AIDS (AKSACA), aided by the government, the Akwa Ibom State HIV /AIDS and STI Control Programme (SASCP) with Implementing Partners, Faith Based Organizations, People Living with HIV/ AIDs, (PLHIV) and other stakeholders will together increase access to HIV testing services, by providing enough rapid test kits whereby all primary health centers and secondary health facilities in the State will be able to provide free HIV testing services to its citizens.
Also to be done by the groups is the increase of access to treatment by creating 3 new comprehensive treatment centres, 1 per senatorial district to be fully supported by the State government to compliment other comprehensive treatment centres supported by international partners.
Likewise, the collaboration will embark on state-wide community outreaches and enlightenment campaigns to create demand for the uptake of HIV services.
He therefore appealed to the media to be partners in the project by incorporating jingles, news promo, talk shows and media chats on HIV at no cost, to support the fight against the transmission of the virus.
Still to be done by the collaboration is an intervention among drivers of new infections such as young adults females and members of the key population, by designing interventions that are gender and youth friendly. This, he said, is in line with the new national strategic frame work 2019- 2023 which will lead advocacy to the local government councils in the State to lend regular and dedicated support for HIV intervention and other health programs in their respective Local Government Areas.
“We will also lead advocacy to the legislative arm of government to put in place laws to protect people living with HIV and to curb transmission of new infections, by expeditiously deliberating and passing the bill on Anti Stigma and Discrimination against people living with HIV and Aids.”
To be initiated too is “the process of developing a bill to prosecute persons found to willfully infector transmit the virus to other people”.
The Commissioner appreciated the Federal Ministry of Health, National agency for the control of Aids (NACA), USAIDS and Global fund, and others who have contributed to the reduction of HIV in the State and assured that “the government will continue to create an enabling environment for existing partners and will gladly welcome new partners”.
He reminded Akwa Ibomites of the ABC principles of keeping safe and urged them to stand to the fight against the virus “Abstinence, Being faithful to one’s Partner, Correct and Consistence Condom Use, Refraining from the use of illicit Drugs, which could be injectable or otherwise”. “I therefore urge all Akwa Ibomites to stand up and fight to stop the transmission of HIV virus, we all have a part to play no matter how little”, he said.