By Izunna Okafor, Awka
Stakeholders in Anambra State have stressed the need to stop the stigmatization against persons living with HIV/AIDS, owing to the dangerous implications of such acts.
This was part of the key focus at a one-day symposium organized by the Anambra State AIDS Control Agency (ANSACA), to herald the 2023 World AIDS Day.
Themed “Communities: Leadership to End AIDS by 2030”, the event, which held on Wednesday in Awka, Anambra State capital, was organized in collaboration with some implementing partners and development partners, including the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS).
Speaking at the well-attended event, Anambra State Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo said Anambra had been selected as one of the four states in Nigeria to benefit from health insurance scheme, which will involve the enrollment of persons living with HIV/AIDS in health insurance scheme, for a more comprehensive access to healthcare.
The Governor, represented by the State’s Commissioner for Health, Dr. Afam Obidike, disclosed that there is biometric capturing in 43 treatment centers in the State now, which allows every client in the State to access treatment from any treatments centre of their choice in any part of the State.
According to him, statistics show that 2.4% of Anambra population, numbering up to 98,960 people are estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS in the state, out of which only 44,808 has been identified and placed on sustained treatment. He further hinted that the State is earnestly striving to achieve the “95, 95, 95” vision of the UNAIDS by the year 2030, which involves ensuring that at least 95% of people get tested and know their HIV status, while at least 95% of those who tested positive enroll for antiretroviral therapy, and then at least 95% of those in treatment achieve viral suppression to prevent further transmission of the virus from them to another person, which will lead to a global drop in the transmission.
While warning against stigmatizing against people living with HIV/AIDS, Governor Soludo, who commended ANSACA and its partners, also revealed that a huge number of people in the State living with HIV/AIDS are yet to be reached, hence the need for the stakeholders’ engagement to intensify the campaign for testing and treatment against HIV/AIDS.
On his own part, the Speaker, Anambra State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Somtochukwu Udeze, represented by the Chairman, House Committee on Health, Hon. Tony Muobuike of the Aguata II Constituency, rated the symposium high and joined his voice to call for the stoppage of the stigmatization against persons living with HIV/AIDS; even as he pledged the House’s readiness to synergize with relevant stakeholders and contribute significantly in the fight against HIV/AIDS, especially through responsive and and responsible legislations, among other approaches.
Earlier in his address of welcome, the Executive Director of Anambra State AIDS Control Agency (ANSACA) Mr. Johnbosco Ementa explained that the aim of the event was to create awareness about HIV/AIDS as well as enlighten and engage the members of the public on what they ought to know and do about HIV/AIDS at every point in time, all with the central aim of eradicating it.
According to him, those indulging in unprotected sex, commercial sex workers, and the LGBTQ community are at high risk of contracting or spreading HIV/AIDS. He also harped on the need for regular test, for its early detection and proper treatment.
“Testing is an important step to controlling HIV/AIDS. The problem is that people generally feel reluctant to go for HIV test; but I advise everyone to take charge of their own health by taking the bold step to get tested. There are also HIV self-test kits which an individual can use to personally and harmlessly test himself or herself in their comfort zones and see their result,” he said.
While commending the efforts of the implementing partners, the ANSACA ED, Mr. Ementa also stressed that ANSACA would not relent in its sustained efforts of coordinating all HIV/AIDS multi-sectoral response in Anambra State, which he said, would help, in no small measure in achieving Governor Soludo’s vision of making Anambra a liveable and prosperous homeland, as well as in achieving the United Nation’s goal of ending HIV/AIDS by the year 2030.
He called for full compliance to the relevant HIV/AIDS-related laws, and further advised the community leadership stakeholders to take the message down to the grassroots and sensitize their members; even as he reassured them of the Agency’s availability and readiness to assist them and to respond to all HIV/AIDS-related issues of concern at any point in time.
In their respective goodwill messages, the Programme Manager for UNAIDS, Dr. Mrs. Adaoha Anosike; the representative of the Achieving Health Nigeria Initiatives, (AHNi), Dr. Onyeka Ugwu; Gladys Ezembu representing the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), and Francis Casmir Nwankwo representing the Association of Positive Youths in Nigeria (APYIN), highlighted the efforts so far made and the successes so far recorded in their activities with regards to the fight against HIV/AIDS, while also expressing optimism for a more fruitful collaboration with stakeholders and community leaders.
In their separate remarks, the Traditional Ruler of Okpuno, Igwe Sunday Okafor; his Awkuzu counterpart, Igwe Prof. Charles Anikweze; Igwe Sir Ben Emeka of Umueri; and Igwe Christopher Emeka Nnaegbuna of Ebenebe community, all lent their voices in appreciating Governor Soludo, the State’s Ministry of Health, ANSACA and other stakeholders for their efforts towards eradicating HIV/AIDS in Anambra State by the year 2030.
While calling for more intensified efforts, they further pledged their support in the campaign against HIV/AIDS, while also warning against stigmatizing people living with HIV/AIDS.
Among other highlights, the one-day symposium featured a panel discussion, which afforded the participants the opportunity to brainstorm on various aspects of concerns about HIV/AIDS.
The event also featured recognition and presentation of awards to some deserving individuals, including the wife of the Anambra State Police Commissioner and Chairperson of Police Officers Wives Association (POWA) in the State, Mrs. Bolanle Adeoye, among others.
Other awardees at the event include the Director of Public Health in the State’s Ministry of Health, Dr. Afam Anaeme; the Programme Adviser of UNAIDS, Dr. Anosike; AHNi; Head of Local Government Administration of Ogbaru Local Government, Mr. Alphonsus U. Ikeh; Mr. John Ibekwe; Mrs. Gladys Ezembu; Mr. Stephen Nwatu; and Francis Casmir Nwankwo.