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Anambra Ranks Highest in HIV Prevalence in Southeast, Fifth in the Country

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By Izunna Okafor, Awka

No fewer than 98,960 persons are estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS in different parts of Anambra State. Out of the 98,960 persons, 58% have known their status, among whom only 44,808 persons have been placed on treatment.

The State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Afam Obidike, disclosed this while briefing journalists on Thursday in Awka, the state’s capital, ahead of the 2023 World AIDS Day.

According to him, Anambra currently ranks fifth in the country and first in southeast in terms of the prevalence of HIV/AIDS.

Despite the daunting statistics, Dr. Obidike’s address carried an undertone of optimism and progress, as he highlighted the positive strides the state has so far made in combating the pandemic, adding that Anambra is making a huge efforts and strides towards the Global 95:95:95 targets by 2030, having currently achieved 58:81:94. He also provided a detailed statistics of the historical prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the State, acknowledging a significant fluctuations from 9.7% in 2014 to a more promising 2.4% in 2018 till date. He noted that although while challenges persist, this decline in HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the State signals a positive trajectory, fostering hope for continued advancements in public health.

Flanked by the Director of Public Health in the Ministry, Dr. Afam Anaeme, and the Executive Director of the Anambra State AIDS Control Agency (ANSACA), Mr. Johnbosco Ementa during the briefing; Commissioner Obidike also noted there had been a significant reduction in new HIV infections in the State (46% between 2021 and 2023), as well as a significant reduction in AIDS-related deaths in the State (32% between 2021 and 2023), painting a picture of resilience and success. He added that the state had also commenced activities to scale up Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission Services (PMTCT) to ensure no woman transmits this infection to her baby.

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Shedding light on the significance of World AIDS Day celebrated annually on December 1, the Commissioner described the annual observance as an international day dedicated to raising more awareness about the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection and for remembering those who have died as a result of HIV/AIDS. He further explained that transmission of HIV/AIDS from person to person is through body fluids during sexual activities, mother to child during pregnancy, labour and delivery, breast feeding, blood transfusion and risky sexual behaviours.

Dissecting this year’s theme of the event as was domesticated in the country — “Communities: Leadership to End AIDS by 2030” — Dr. Obidike emphasized the crucial role of communities in the fight against HIV/AIDS, even as he encouraged the patient community to be more involved in the planning, implementation and monitoring of HIV programs and ensure that they access relevant prevention, treatment, and care services, such as the distribution of self-tests

The Commissioner took time recognize the efforts of ANSACA and the development/implementing partners in the State, such as the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), Association of Women Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (ASWHAN), Association of Positive Youths, (APYIN), Achieving Health Nigeria Initiative (AHNi), AIDS Health-care Foundation (AHF), Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; Joint United Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria (IHVN), and others, in their contributions to support the implementation of global and national strategies in HIV response in Anambra.

According to him, these collaborative efforts between the State Ministry of Health, implementing partners, and development partners have resulted in the enrollment of one thousand persons living with HIV/AIDS in the State in health insurance scheme, as well as in a substantial increase in number of HIV treatment centres in the State from 104 to an impressive 1,182; adding that the expansion was complemented by the engagement of 1,115 Community ART teams across the state, improving accessibility and coverage.

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He further highlighted other strides so far made in HIV response in the State to include scaling up PMTCT services in the 21 LGAs and procurement of MPIMA machines to improve early infant diagnosis in HIV exposed babies with support from UNICEF and FMoH; employment and training of HCWs to strengthen the health workforce at health facilities, commencing the process of domesticating the anti-stigma law in the state; engaging the help of Clinical Mentors to mentor health care workers and improve Quality of HIV services; as well as providing HIV services to vulnerable and key populations in the society, among others.

“To mark this year’s World AIDS Day celebration, the State Ministry of Health, in collaboration with ANSACA, the implementing partners and development partners, has set up booths at strategic locations in the community and LGAs to provide free HIV counseling and testing,” he said.

According to him, other activities to mark the Day in Anambra include road walks at major cities of the state (Awka, Nnewi and Onitsha), phone-in programs at radio stations, and a symposium, which had earlier heralded the Day, drawing stakeholders and participants from different parts of the State to brainstorm and discuss how best to navigate the HIV response in the State, all aimed at engaging the community in the ongoing campaign and fight against HIV/AIDS, in line with the 2023 theme of the event.

“I assure you of Mr. Governor’s constant provision of enabling environment in partnering with the State,” he concluded.

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