By Adebayo Oladejo –
Zonal coordinator of the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), Oriade Zone, Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State, Pharm. ObyIkwu, has advised stakeholders in the country’s health care sector to rise up to the challenge of reducing the scourge of HIV/AIDS, which she said had affected over 3.1 million people, so far, in the country.
Speaking with Pharmanews during the HIV/AIDS Awareness Campaign programme for primary and secondary schools in AmuwoOdofin Local Government, Lagos, held last December, Pharm. Ikwu, who is also the organiser of the programme, lamented that Nigeria had the second highest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world, adding that the greater percentage of infections were among the young people.
Speaking further, Ikwu, who is also the managing director of Lopez Pharmacy and Stores Limited, explained that the programme was organised in commemoration of the 2013 World AIDS Day with the theme “Share Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-Free Generation”. She explained that she chose to focus on secondary and primary school students because the World Health Organization (WHO) had decided to focus on the adolescents, so as to enlighten them on the current challenges regarding the scourge of HIV/AIDS.
In her lecture, Pharm. Oby explained the nature and transmission patterns of the human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV), while also advising the students to abstain from ungodly relationship and affairs that could lead to pre-marital sex. “This will not only save you from contracting HIV/AIDS,” she counselled, “it would also prevent you from contracting other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Also, you should avoid sharing needles, syringes and any other sharp object, while you should also ensure blood is duly certified HIV-free before transfusion.”
On the suitability of the programme to the students, the organiser noted that it was important to catch the students young, so that as they grow, they get more information about the infection and also tell the coming generations about it.
While citing funding as the major challenge of her project, Ikwu quickly added that the joy she derives from her relationship with the students has been her motivating factor. “As community pharmacists, we are the first port of call in any community, and we should make it a duty to affect the community where we practise and this is exactly what I enjoy doing most,” she said.
Another speaker at the programme, MrsAnurikaAdetunji, a biochemist, remarked that the programme was very important and timely, considering the disturbing rates of decadence among youths. “If you are privileged to see what these little children are doing in secret, you will be baffled; so this is the best time to catch them.
This kind of awareness programme should not only come once in a year but as many times as possible. There should be more awareness programmes about HIV/AIDS in all primary and secondary schools across the nation. They should tell them about the growing trends, the implications and how they can protect themselves,” she stated.
She further emphasised that “the reason HIV/AIDS is growing at an alarming rate is ignorance. Many people do not know that AIDS truly exists. They think it is an agenda of the western people to reduce our population and scare us, but it does exist. HIV/AIDS awareness is needed most in schools, mosques, churches, market places and everywhere because the disease burden is increasing every day and people really need to be aware of its existence.”
Recounting the lessons learnt at the programme, one of the participating students, YahayaIsah said, “I have really learnt a lot today, especially the issue of stigmatisation against those who have it [HIV] and how to ensure it does not spread.”
Another student, Ruth Christopher, from De Ultimate School, said one important thing she learnt at the programme was the ABC strategy of preventing HIV/AIDS, which comprise: Abstinence, Being faithful and Condom usage. “We learnt that we could abstain from sex, be faithful or always protect ourselves with condom; but based on the fact that we are still young, we have been told that abstinence is the most important method to adopt. We are told to avoid being lured into having sex. Today’s programme has helped to remind us of what we have heard before that AIDS is real,” she said.