(By Pharm Idam Augustine)
“We are not all infected, but we are all affected”
Scientists had since long believed that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the mutated form of the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV).This mutation was facilitated by the hunting of Chimpanzees for meat by our forebears. The SIV was first identified in Chimpanzees in West Africa. The aim of this article is not to contest this claim, but to as a matter of necessity and urgency call to the attention of the readers, the effects of HIV/AIDS in our society and how rampant the scourge has become.
On a typical clinic day somewhere in North-West Nigeria, where the writer, a pharmacist, is presently having his one year mandatory and uninterrupted internship training program, the Antiretroviral Therapy section of the pharmacy department, usually witness the visit of the young, the old and the aged, in their numbers on a daily basis. They are usually seated at the facility provided by the institution, while awaiting the pharmacy technician on duty to call their names for the collection of their drugs
Just last month, August 2016, the institution recorded and attended to 19 new cases of People living with HIV/AIDS(PLHIV), and 3 new cases of PLHIV were recorded as at September 8, 2016. This is not an attempt to ridicule or stigmatize the PLHIV or to portray any section of the country in bad light. What then is responsible for this increase in the incidence of HIV/AIDS?
There are many undocumented cases of PLHIV, some are not even aware they are carriers, some are aware that they are carriers but because of the fear of stigmatization, will not come for their medications.
There is therefore need for increased and robust awareness and sensitizations about the scourge of HIV/AIDS. Health workers need to work in concert with the patients. Physicians, pharmacists, nurses, counselors and patients need to work in concert for a better outcome. Patients should be made to know that HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence. With compliance and proper adherence. patients can lead a normal and healthy life. In fact, malaria kills in one year the equivalent of the number of patients HIV/AIDS kills in five years.
The society should stop stigmatizing the PLHIV. A larger proportion of the PLHIV sincerely did not apply to have the virus. Carelessness on the part of healthcare providers, for instance, negligence in screening of blood before transfusion, the innocent child who stumbles on a needle or razor blade used by HIV positive people, the child whom Prevention of Mother to child transmission(PMTCT) could not save from coming down with the infection.
The church-The Roman Catholic Church and other such religious bodies should step down from their moral high ground. The Pope’s stand against the use of condom for catholics is faulty and should be reviewed if possible. I do not claim to know the Bible more than the Pope, but there is no section of the Bible where condom use is condemned. People should be told to abstain but where they cannot as a result of marriage or hormonal reasons, then, they should be allowed to use condoms. HIV/AIDS is not only kept in check, people also are able to give birth to the number of offspring they can cater for by using condoms, in this way as a family planning tool.
Muslim leaders need also tell their congregation that polygamy is not the ultimate law of Allah; it is only prescribed where the man can love all the women equally. Experience and observations have shown that this is practically not possible. Humans as rational and bias beings tend to lean onto one wife. This will also ensure that the HIV is kept in check. Over 70 per cent of the clients in the Antiretrovirals facility where this writer works are from polygamous families. The reasons are simple and easy to decipher.
Female genital mutilation should equally be discouraged. This exercise is carried out using unsterilized knives and blades without anesthetics. The innocent girl child thereafter leads a troubled and traumatized life.Female genital mutilation does not make a woman chaste. It only leads to pain and spreads the virus.
Other measures like running HIV/AIDS jingles on the televisions and radios should be encouraged and promoted. The Ministry of Information can do more of this and every news and print media, should as a matter of their contribution to riding the world of the virus, do same.
Lastly, “AIDS no dey show for face”, ABSTINENCE until marriage remains the best way to avoid the virus, but where you cannot abstain ,USE CONDOM.