EARLY last week, experts and stakeholders on the fight against the HIV/AIDS scourge from across Nigeria gathered in Lafia, Nasarawa State to brainstorm on new strategies to fight the spread of the Virus.
The strategic workshop, which was organised by Caritas International, Nigeria Chapter, was attended by religious leaders, health care givers and other stakeholders on health-based campaign..
DURING the meeting which lasted for two days, the Senior Technical Adviser, Outcomes and Evaluation of Caritas International, Dr. Olawale Fadare, identified low level political commitment of government at all levels, poor funding of various projects for the control of the pandemic and poor understanding of child spacing by parents as some of the major bottlenecks affecting the fight against HIV/AIDS.
PRESENTING a paper titled “Status of Pediatric HIV in Nigeria, Data, Gaps and Challenges”, Dr. Fadare said that for the spread of the scourge to be curtailed, emphasis must be shifted to mother and child transmission.
ACCORDING to him, if mother and child transmission is curtailed, the spread of the virus will be reduced drastically. He therefore admonished religious leaders and all the participants to use the knowledge gained from the workshop to educate their followers on the dangers of HIV/AIDS to societal development, especially among children.
“THE global burden of pediatric HIV/AIDS disease is high despite the efforts made to prevent mother to child transmission as latest survey had shown that children under the ages of five face the risk of AIDS–related deaths compared to other age groups.
“WITHOUT timely intervention and adoption of new strategies, half of the children living with HIV will die before their second birthdays, hence the need for all hands to be on deck in other to tackle HIV/AIDS menace,” he said.
HE REVEALED that according to the summary of United Nations Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (UNAIDS) analysis just released, the Nigerian situation from 2003 to 2016 indicated that the 10 top states in the country that had the widest gaps in pediatric HIV treatment were Sokoto, Bayelsa, Jigawa, Oyo, Borno, Ogun, Yobe, Ondo, Zamfara and Ebonyi.
ACCORDING to the data from UNAID, the 10 top states with highest total burden of children infected with HIV are Oyo, Edo, Kaduna, Taraba, Lagos, Sokoto, Kano, Akwa Ibom, Ogun and Ondo.
DR FADARE however explained that there is an urgent need to initiate ARVS for all HIV positive babies so as to improve their status.
THE revelation cannot come at a more auspicious time than now, when reports across the country show an increase in mother to child transmission of HIV.
TO AVOID the calamity ahead and its consequences, governments at all levels, cooperate bodies, religious leaders and in fact, all Nigerians must double efforts in the fight against the health scourge.
IT IS a known fact that both the federal and all state governments in the country have agencies like the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) at the national level and other agencies owned by the states but their activities are not commensurate to the huge amounts of money spent so far in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. These agencies are not only expected to mark up their efforts to reduce the prevalent rate but must be proactive to arrest the situation before it runs out of hand.
RELIGIOUS leaders must see the fight against the scourge as part of their church teachings to reduce the rate at which their members engage on activities that may likely increase the prevalent rate.
NIGERIANS on their parts have a lot of work to do to stamp out or at least, reduce the increase of the scourge through godly living. Some of the noted factors that lead to increase in the scourge like unguarded sexual activities, use of unsterilized needles and sharp objects, among others must be stopped in homes and hospitals.
BODY-piercing health care providers must be alive to their responsibilities to save lives of Nigerians.
THE media also must enlighten and educate Nigerians on the need to avoid those life styles that give impetus to the growth and spread of the HIV/AIDS scourge.
IT IS our firm belief that if all the stakeholders in the fight against the virus pool their human and material resources together and fight the disease head–on, the issue of HIV/AIDS would be reduced if not stamped out completely.
THE battle must be holistic and by all Nigerians as it is not that of the governments or a particular segment of the society.
A STITCH in time saves nine.