By Martins Ifijeh
Over 196,000 adolescents, representing 10 per cent of the global burden, are said to be living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria with a high estimated number of AIDS-related deaths, according to the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund’s HIV Specialist, Dr. Victoria Isiramen.
She said the children who were between the ages of 10 and 19 years must be co-opted into programmes to end the pandemic in the country, as they represent the crème and social capital of any society.
Speaking during an advocacy meeting between 50 adolescents living positively with HIV from various states of the federation and the Lagos State Aids Control Agency (LSACA), in partnership with Positive Action for Treatment Access (PATA) and UNICEF, she called for stakeholders to put measures on ground to locate all adolescents in the country who were living with the virus in order for them to get prompt healthcare and awareness.
Isiramen, who admonished the children to stand tall in the face of discrimination and stigmatisation, said: “you must understand that being positive with HIV is not your making, hence you must never let what people say or do against you weigh you down. Consider it that you are unique among other adolescents, as this will prompt you to achieve better in your life endeavours.”
On his part, the Chief Executive Officer, LSACA, Dr. Oluseyi Temowo said the state was committed to eradicating HIV/AIDS from Lagos considering the scale up programmes currently going on across all local governments of the state.
“Lagos State, since June this year has been committed to the global target of reducing the virus by 90 per cent on or before year 2020, and we are also working towards total eradication of the scourge by 2030. The target is achievable if we sustain the various intervention programmes currently being put in place,” he added.
The CEO said the programme, termed 90:90:90 would ensure that by 2020, at least 90 per cent of people living with HIV/AIDS in the state will be known, at least 90 per cent of those living with the virus in the state will be on Anti-Retroviral Drugs, and at least 90 per cent of those on drugs would have successfully suppressed the virus to a minimal level, such that it would no longer be a threat to other members of the society.
He called on all persons who are positive with HIV in the state to seek treatment in designated centres across all local governments, adding that the treatment remains free.
Temowo called on those still living in denial, despite being diagnosed with the virus, to come out and be counted, as that was the only way the state could ensure they are co-opted into treatment plans.
While commending PATA and UNICEF for its logistic and financial support during the two weeks camping for the 50 adolescents from Lagos, Benue, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Kaduna, Anambra and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, he called on other states to scale up intervention so that in few years to come, Nigeria, collectively will be free from the scourge.
Lending her voice, the Permanent Secretary, State Ministry of Health, Dr. ‘Modele Osunkiyesi said to achieve a healthy population, the role of adolescents must be put into consideration, adding that, often times they were the most marginalised in the society, as they were often regarded as too inquisitive and adventurous.
“That is why we have set up adolescent and child centres in some designated areas of the state, where they are not only being treated, but given counselling and other recreational activities,” she said.
The Project Coordinator, PATA, Mr. Frances Umoh, thanked Lagos State Government, UNICEF and other stakeholders for making the hosting of the 50 adolescents a huge success, saying that they will henceforth become advocates against the virus in their various states.