World Aids Day which takes place annually on December 1, was commemorated on Monday by United State Consulate General in conjunction with Lagos
State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM) in Lagos.
The event, which was themed “Right to Health; Making it Happen”, was attended by various stakeholders who described ever increasing efforts to eradicate the epidemic in the country.
Despite ever increasing efforts made by both international and national stakeholders, over 3.2 million people are still living with HIV in Nigeria and with prevalence rate at 3.17 percent, HIV in Nigeria remains the second largest epidemic in the world and one of the highest newest rates in sub-Sahara Africa according to UNAIDS.
Oluseyi Temowo, CEO of Lagos State Aids Control Agency (LSACA), speaking at the event, stressed that the issue of HIV/AIDS concerns everyone. He said the 90-90-90 by 2020 initiative was the roadmap to achieving a HIV/AIDS free society.
The 90-90-90 strategy was introduced in 2013 by UNAIDS and it means by 2020, 90 percent of HIV infected will be diagnosed, 90 percent of people diagnosed will be on antiretroviral treatment and 90% of those who receive antiretroviral will be virally suppressed.
”However, it remains a challenge in Nigeria, whereas some countries like
Brazil have attained or almost reached 90-90-90, only 34 percent of HIV infected people know their status in Nigeria, with some people not knowing testing centers” he said.
He continued that one of the programs that was launched by LSACA this year to mark Worlds Aids Day was “A Walk for HIV”. It was free HIV testing in some markets in the state and actively involved traders (market women and men).
Also speaking at the event was Kevin Krapf, Acting Public Officer, Public Affairs, U.S Consulate General who said “many people living with HIV in Nigeria are unaware of their status and access to antiretroviral drugs remains an issue though admirable efforts have been made”. He also added that no one country can stop the AIDS epidemic.
The fact that HIV/AIDS can never be curbed by one country or body was greatly emphasized at the event. Another issue raised in the event was the stigmatization of people living with the virus.
Recommendations were made by Emmanuel Olaoti, a representative for Society for Family Health which include educating people on the current HIV information, providing legal support and referral to discriminated people living with the virus and social inclusion of HIV infected people.
Other guests include Babatunde Solagberu, Provost, Lagos State University
College of Medicine (LASUCOM), Bisola Olumegbon, head, medical unit, United State Consulate General and a dance performance by Spirit of David, a non-profit organization.