As part of its sustained awareness campaign, the National Action Committee on AIDS (NACA) has announced that Nigeria records 281,000 new infections of HIV/AIDS every year.
Prof. John Idoko, NACA’s director-general, made this revelation during the zonal consultations on ownership for sustainable HIV response held recently in Abuja.
According to Idoko, only 400,000 persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) are receiving drugs, out of about 3 million people currently infected, while about 1.5 million people are expected to be on anti-retroviral drugs.
In spite of the odds, the NACA director-general was quite optimistic and expressed satisfaction with the progress made in the fight against the disease.
In his earlier address at the meeting, the professor categorically said that the irregularity in funding the NACA by donor agencies was because of the global meltdown in the past three years.
“We have seen a very significant progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS in Nigeria – more than 25 per cent HIV decline between 2001 and 2009. However, we still have very significant gaps.”
“Nigeria has the largest burden of transmission of mother child of HIV in the world – 30 per cent with about 70,000 children born every year with HIV. These children hardly live to see their third birthday, without treatment,” he said.
He however warned that a lot still needs to be accomplished in order to ensure a future free of HIV/AIDS.
“If we are to transform the landscape of AIDS, it must remain high on the national and global agenda. We must move to a response that is long-term and sustainable – onethat makes full use of the knowledge and resources developed over the past three decades, yet continues and responds to a changing world that is constantly influencing the future of AIDS,” he remarked.
While expressing his appreciation, the NACA boss further urged donor agencies to ensure regular funding of the agency, saying over 80 percent of their finance comes from them.
Prior to the Zonal Consultation meeting, it would be recalled that NACA carried out several enlightenment campaigns to dissuade youths on partaking in activities that can put them at risk during the valentine period (February 14).
Idoko appealed to media organisations to use the opportunity to relay positive messages about the celebration of the day. He also urged people to avoid what would impair their sense of judgment, to keep away from risky behaviour.
According to him, the day is supposed to be a demonstration of love and gratitude to important people in one’s life by giving gifts.
He called on the government to find ways to provide more social infrastructure that would engage the young minds and keep them busy.
“More recreation parks, sports arena, museums, tourist sites must be developed, this will provide venues for young men and women to visit, instead of engaging in risky behaviour.’’
Idoko said it was important to note that sex was worth waiting for and that it was wrong to think that having it was a sign of love.
“It is never a sign that can tell if someone loves you or not; young people should strive to protect their self-esteem and wait until they are married.
“Boyfriends and girlfriends should engage in meaningful activities that can provide not just fun, but education and information, such as exchanging fictional and educational books.
“Visiting of recreational parks, zoos, and tourist sites, and even visiting orphanages, are all activitieswhich young ones should indulge in. This will make them appreciate life better, protect and utilise the opportunity God has given them for a chance in life. ’’