The Director-General of the National Agency for the Control of HIV/AIDS, Dr. Gambo Aliyu, has said the decentralisation of the agency’s office to the six geopolitical zones of the country is to strengthen its fight against the spread of the disease.
Aliyu said this on Tuesday during the inauguration of the South-East Zonal Office of the agency in Umuahia, the Abia State capital. He said the measure was meant to take the war against HIV closer to the people, to further identify the carriers and avail them of easy access to the facility and medications.
He also said the zonal offices of the agency would help to drive the fight against the stigmatisation of persons living with HIV/AIDS. He admonished Abia residents to visit NACA and State Agencies for the Control of HIV/AIDS (SACA) facilities to know their status.
Aliyu said: “You can go for secret screening to ascertain your status and if you discover that you are positive, please go to the facility for counselling and medications.
“Today, the medications are helping to treat those living with HIV/AIDS. The medications can help to wipe out the virus from the blood and make it difficult to transfer it to another person.” The NACA boss appealed to Nigerians to ascertain their status and present themselves for medication if found positive.
“Why do we allow our people to continue to die in ignorance. We should all join hands to fight stigmatisation. “The message today is that HIV/AIDS is not the end of one’s life,” Aliyu said. He thanked Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia for his “demonstrable commitment toward reducing HIV prevalence rate in the state.
He said that Ikpeazu acquitted himself as the first governor in the country to fulfil his pledge to commit 0.5 per cent of Abia’s Federal Allocation to the fight against HIV/AIDS in Abia. In a speech read on his behalf, Ikpeazu expressed concern that HIV prevalence in the South-East was still higher than the national prevalence of 1.9 per cent.
The governor, who was represented by his deputy, said situation posed serious challenge to all the SACA managements in the zone “to intensify their efforts in the fight against the disease.” The Zonal Coordinator, NACA South-East Zonal Office, Dr. Miriam Ezekwe, said that setting up the zonal office would increase and improve the interface of SACA with NACA, “thereby making the national response more robust.”
Ezekwe said the result of the National AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey 2018 showed that NACA had done well to bring down the national HIV prevalence estimate to 1.4 per cent and 1.9 per cent in the south east. She said the survey revealed progress and critical gaps in ending the infectious disease, adding that the burden was still high due to the huge population.
The Project Manager of SACA, Dr. Ajike Kalu, said Abia, alongside other southeast states, still remained within the top seven states where HIV prevalence was greater than the national prevalence. “This calls for a more collaborative efforts among the South-East states toward reducing the prevalence. “The establishment of the southeast zonal office could not have come at a better time.
“The office will, no doubt, act as the springboard we require to function effectively and eventually reduce prevalence,” Kalu said. The Team Lead, state Programme Implementation Unit, Mrs. Maria Ikeh; and Commissioner for Health, Dr. Joe Osuji, thanked NACA for its support to the state in the collective effort to eradicate HIV in Abia.
A representative of the Persons Living With HIV/AIDS, Michael Ozeh, also thanked NACA, SACA and the state government for their assistance in making their medications available to them. Ozeh, however, said the group was being faced with “serious financial and psychological challenges” and solicited support from government and public-spirited individuals.
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