In continuation of a project initiated last year, in commemoration of the World AIDS Day, a team of researchers from the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) and Saint Louis University, staged an awareness campaign for youths from over 11 secondary schools in Lagos, on ideas presentation about HIV self-testing.
The secondary school awareness campaign, held at the Police College, Ikeja, was planned to propagate the concept of HIV self-testing among Nigerian youths.
Fielding questions from journalists at the programme, Dr Juliet Iwelunmor, principal investigator, Saint Louis University; explained why they needed to continue from where they stopped last year, as they are yet to get enough youthful ideas on HIV self-testing, for all the youths in the country.
“There are over 60 million youths in Nigeria, and one solution will not fit all. You can’t say one idea is going to capture all youths, that’s why we are having it this year. We got some ideas last year and we need more for effectiveness of the campaign.
“We also got winners that came from Enugu for example, two from Lagos, one from Akure, one from Ibadan, but these can’t get across to all youths in Nigeria. So we are still scratching the surface when you think of where the highest case of HIV is. For example Akwa Ibom, we have no representation.
“So our goal is to say that no one idea can reach the over 60 million youths in Nigeria. That’s why we are here and the idea is to decentralise HIV self-testing, to enable everyone do the test in the confine of your home, and do away with stigmatisation”, she remarked.
For Dr Oliver Ezechi, principal investigator, NIMR, although recent survey shows that HIV rates has dropped in Nigeria, but is still very prevalent among the youth. “So we decided to use research, method to reach a number of young persons here today. When we adults design a programme for young persons, they don’t listen to us, but when it is designed by the youths for the youths, it achieves the goal”, he stated.
He narrated further the objective of the team in gathering the youngsters, which was for the students to come and share their thoughts on how best to reach young persons with the concept of self-testing.
“When a young person visits the hospital for HIV test, all eyes might be on him, but what we are doing is to encourage them to do self-testing in the confine of their homes. Thereafter, there are phone numbers or social media contacts they can contact if they are positive.
“We are partnering with Lagos State AIDS Agency, Civil Society Against AIDS; Young People Against AIDS, and Saints Louis University”.
Speaking on the new discovery that patients with undetected viral can have unprotected sex with their partners without transmitting the virus, Ezechi said it’s a possibility if a patient is on his drugs, ” but it is only a doctor that can tell you when your viral load is undetected. A patient cannot stay back at home and say his viral load is undetected. It is only a medical doctor that can do that, after conducting a medical test on the patient.
One of the students with the name Mary Edopa, from Majidun Senior Grammar School, Ikorodu
spoke on the provision of HIV self-testing kits by the government, in supermarkets and other places.She opinded that there should be seminars, workshop, film show especially on people living HIV, as most people are scared of the test because they are not sure of their status.
Nelson Garuba, another presenter from Majidun Senior Grammar School, Ikorodu, spoke on using soft drinks advertisements to get the attention of the young people. “For instance partnering with bottling companies like Coca Cola, Pepsi, to place their advertisements side by side with that of HIV self-testing would suffice”.
Some of the schools that participated in the programme are: Majidun Senior Secondary School,Ikorodu; Ayo-Olusheun College, Alakpere; The African Church model college, Agege; Bolu college, ilupeju; Surulere Snr Secondary School; Onike Girls Junior Secondary School; Surulere Girls Junior Secondary School; Ayetoro Senior Grammar School; Iponri Estate Snr High School; Birel Avenue Senior Secondary School Yaba; Stadium Senior High School, Surulere, among others.