By Alex Uangbaoje, Kaduna
As part of activities to commemorate the 2018 World AIDS Day, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said her campaigns would be targeted at rural communities in Kaduna State.
Dr. Idris Baba, HIV/AIDS Specialist, UNICEF Kaduna Field Office, who disclosed this in Kaduna at weekend, stated that activities for this year’s commemoration would be carried out in rural communities where its Adolescents and Young Persons, (AYPs) intervention programme is currently ongoing.
According to Dr. Baba, the communities are located in seven Local Government Areas of Jaba, Jema’a, Lere, Kagarko, Birnin Gwari, Igabi and Chikun, where access to HIV/AIDS services and information are not adequate like the urban centres.
This year’s World AIDS Day campaign tagged “#IsabiHIV” was flagged off at the National Youth Service Corp, (NYSC) Kaduna orientation Camp on Friday, by UNICEF and the Kaduna State AIDS Control Agency, (KADSACA).
The agencies, cites twelve HIV testing and counseling centres at the NYSC camp ground under the supervision of UNICEF Local Government Team (LGT) from Chikun.
The HIV/AIDS Specialist, explained that there are about 468 AYP Volunteers (ages 14 – 25) working hard in their respective communities together with UNICEF LGT to create awareness and provide testing and counseling services to Adolescents and Young Persons in the seven LGAs.
“We want to ensure that in the next couple of days they intensify their work in this LGAs to reach more AYPs and also make sure that those who are HIV positive are linked go treatment.”
Dr. Baba further said that UNICEF would also engaged the Corp members, and already has come up with national campaign of HIV branded; #IsabiHIV which is at the NYSC camp which would from there moved into the communities.
“We are actually kick-starting from the camp immediately and we hope that the campaign would create the necessary hype required so that people are better informed about what is happening on the World AIDS day; as well availed them the opportunity to know their HIV status,” he said.
He commended the State Government for working hard with development partners to further bring down the Prevalence Rate (PR) from 2.2 per cent to the current 1.1 per cent.
“The population of Kaduna state in terms of number is large, so for every point dropped in percentage for the state means a lot for the country being the 3rd most populous state in Nigeria. So any change in trajectory in the state would mean changing the trajectory for the country,” he said.
The Executive Secretary, KADSACA, Dr. Mark Anthony, said Kaduna state has a cause to celebrate this year’s World AIDS day, but quickly added that it was not yet Uhuru, as the target is to attain zero infection by 2030.
According to him, this year’s World AIDS day theme, “Know Your HIV Status” will lead to the increase of coverage of those that know their status from the current 34 per cent to 90 per cent by 2030 in the state.
Speaking at the NYSC camp, the KADSACA boss said services were being provided, but first people should know their HIV status, adding that treatment which is the bedrock of prevention would follow as the drugs are effective.
He said that the AYPs are the target group by government to access the services, hence the involvement of Corp members, adding that UNICEF has been the bedrock of support to the programme.
The State Coordinator, NYSC Kaduna, Mrs. Walida Siddique Isa, assured of the Corp cooperation and to partner KADSACA for the project.
Speaking through the Camp Director, Mr. Sam Nkwopara, she said the whole camp is awash with HIV campaign.
A male beneficiary, 27 years old, who was very excited said he has just been tested. He informed to a reasonable extent he is aware of the #IsabiHIV Campaign meant to enlighten people more on HIV, the mode of transmission and how one could prevent it.
He said there is a need for people to go for the test, know their status and also be oriented on how HIV could be prevented so that they could be ambassadors of HIV/AIDS the movement that is ongoing.
“That is why when I came for this test I also invited my roommates and they are all here. After the test they too were very excited. For me I am so happy after knowing my status,” he said.
Also, a 21 years old female beneficiary, disclosed that she got tested on Thursday and as at the time of speaking to the media her joy knows no bound when she knew her status.
she disclosed that she now feel bold and confident, with a promise that, henceforth she will try to live safe and stay free, adding that if she must use any sharp object she will make sure it is sterilized.
“To the young people, I would want them to get tested to know their status because it is better to know one’s status so that in case of anything you could do something about it immediately. HIV is real so let everyone get tested,” she said.
Similarly, another female, 24 years old disclosed that she came out to be tested to actually know her status, and now that she knows it, she is very happy.
“Initially, I was very scared but immediately after the test, I became very happy. I have called my other friends to come and experience what I have seen because I am very happy.
“My advice to AYPs is abstinence, but in a situation where it can’t work, the person should protect himself or herself,” she admonished.