Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade, has urged health groups to heighten sensitization campaigns in villages to end stigmatization of people living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, AIDS.
He made the call at the celebration of the 2019 World AIDS Day in Calabar, the capital city.
Governor Ayade, who was represented by the chief of staff to the governor, Martins Orim, stressed that it was imperative for those at the communities to understand the need to stop stigmatization of people living with the virus.
“I encourage all of you in our communities to replace stigmatization with sensitization and to show love to people living with the virus. They are still one of us, they are members of our communities. Let us encourage them to embrace the treatment that is available, so that they can live. Let them be encouraged to participate in everything that we do especially in this Christmas season,” he stated.
The governor stated that the government was embarking on several interventions in the health sector to make health services accessible and affordable to the rural areas.
He stated, As government, we will give every support to ensure that we eradicate the virus from every nooks and crannies of our society. We know that part of the fight against HIV is to create a healthy environment for our people in the communities. In doing that, we have a policy drive to provide food for our people through our industrial and agricultural revolutions. In the 2020 budget, we have allocated more than 44 billion naira to the health sector in order to ensure speedy and affordable healthcare delivery as well as ensure the completion and equipping of the three referral hospitals”, he said.
In a message, Dr. Frank Eyam, the state Programme Manager, FHI360, said the importance of the say is to enable people understand that accessing treatment and strict adherence to the drugs is able to reduce the viral load to the point where such a person cannot infect another.
Eyam explained, “the job is to ensure that everyone who is infected receives treatment until such cannot transmit the virus again. That is the way we are going now. We have a drug now that within six weeks, the virus would be suppressed”, an information which was received with accolades at the gathering.
Also speaking, Sarah Steven, a representative of the Cross River Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS, expressed appreciation to the Nigerian and State governments as well as implementing partners for efforts galvanized to eradicate the virus.
Steven said that the theme for the 2019 celebration. “Communities Make the Difference” was geared towards establishing a person’s HIV status, which has recorded success.
She said “so far, we have 37,493 persons that have been diagnosed positive out of which 18,649 are currently on anti-retroviral therapy with 43 persons virally suppressed. However, there is still a gap of 18, 844 unmet. One huge challenge has been that of funding the existing 70 support groups across the state. We are also faced with the challenge of carrying out successful home based care as well as follow up services through tracking to bring back those yet to commence the anti-retro viral drugs.” stated Steven.
Prior to the speech making segment, the various implementing partners and support groups embarked on a city walk along the streets of Calabar, while a previous night had the people living with the virus hold a candle light procession in honour of those, who died due to HIV/AIDS.