IF YOU ARE NOT INFECTED YOU ARE AFFECTED By: Cecilia Ofum
In early 2020, the Covid19 pandemic ravaged us globally pushing aside issues of HIV/AIDS not only in CRS Nigeria but the world at large felt same. The story of HIV/AIDS is still the same before the Covid-19 pandemic if not worse.
In Cross River State with our Digital Governor Prof. Ben Ayade’s passion and efforts of committed and passionate Exco members and with the support of implementing partners in the state, the prevalence rate from the 2018 NAIIS (National Aids Indicator and Impact Survey) puts our state at 2.0%. but this is above the National average of 1.4% and it is the 3rd highest in the South-South after Akwa Ibom State (5.5%) and River state (3.8%). There is still danger since we are in between Akwa Ibom state (5.5%) and Benue state (4.9%) and also playing host to refugee from Cameroun, a country with a high incidence of HIV. And these refugees are actively engaged in social-economic activities with the host communities With the situation on ground so far, we have about 47,936 persons who are HIV positive placed AntiRetroviral therapy (ART) receiving treatment across the state, in tertiary institutions like UTCH, and NNR Hospital. 25 Secondary facilities and 125 Primary Health Facilities. The State Ministry of Health through the State AIDS and STI programme Control (SASCP), are doing their best in the Health Sector HIV Response while the State Agency for Control of AIDs SACA and tackling the Non-Health Sector HIV Response.
The Primary Health Care Development Authority with PHCs spread in the communities make it easy for people who are living with the HIV/AIDS to access their treatments in the Health facilities closest to them. So far with the 47,936
persons on treatment only about 3964 persons are members of support groups of people living with HIV/AIDS. In the state presently, CRINEPWHAN (CRS Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS n Nigeria) haven 80 support
groups spread across the 18 Local Government Areas. The support groups meet monthly and beneficial for HIV positive persons, men women and children in helping them learn how to live positively, share experiences with each other and helping to overcome stigma and discrimination. It has been observed that those who attend support groups have also learned how to adhere to their medications and are virally suppressed.
When one is virally suppressed, you live a healthy life and carry on well with your day to day activities and cannot easily infect others. Thanks to the PMTCT aspect of treatment even couples who are both HIV positive can have negative children.
Unlike other states where most HIV positive persons could not have access to treatment due to the Covid19 lock down, the story of CRS was different since people were accessing their treatment in health facilities in their communities and did not need to travel far. There is still need for activating old support groups that are not functioning again and formation of new support group where the need is greater, in areas like the IDP camps. People who are living with HIV have a responsibility of not willingly infecting others by living positively and avoiding risking
“Unlike other states where most HIV positive persons could not have access to treatment due to the Covid-19 lock down, the story of CRS was different since people were accessing their treatment in health facilities in their communities and did not need to travel far”.
When it comes to HIV/AIDS we are involved because if you are not infected with the virus (PLHIV), you are affected
with the virus (PAPA). This is so because we have all been affected in one way or another. It you have not lost a close relation to AIDS, at least you know somebody who have died from AIDS.
The Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN) has its national Headquarters in Abuja with a National Coordinator/Excos. So also, in 36 states of Nigeria plus FCT, we have NEPWHAN offices and state Coordinators. Let us join hands and see that our state prevalence is reduced to 0% rather than increase more than the 2.0% we have now.
State Coordinator (NEPWHAN)