Storm Keffi to screen residents
No surer way for Nigeria and any nation battling HIV/AIDS pandemic to defeat the scourge than through testing for the disease by people of such nations, a network of organizations which funded massive advocacy on the disease at Keffi, Nasarawa State, said on Saturday, December 1.
Brother Across Nigeria (BAN), AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Nigeria’s leading telecoms operator, MTN, made the call while testing hundreds of residents for the disease.
The partnership was culmination of BAN’s ambition to ensure all Nigerians engage in periodic testing for the disease to enable them know their status, said its president, Adewale Odusanya, while speaking with our correspondent at the venue of the event.
Participants were entertained with various activities including swimming at the pool, dancing with light music at the Pricess Sarah hotel, where the event took place.
Odusanya said enlightenment is very critical to defeating the scourge, hence BAN would continue to prioritize sensitizing the public on the disease.
Besides, he said the partnership stemmed out of the need to support government’s effort in taming the disease.
“As it is now, there are a couple of things that we cannot just leave to the government alone. As citizens, we need to take certain responsibilities. As corporate bodies, as association, we have to take certain responsibilities. This is what prompted Brothers Across Nigeria, Northern Region, in conjunction with Brothers Across Nigeria, Kubwa and Keffi chapters to come with AHF, NACA, MTN to bring this outreach here today to mark World AIDS Day.
“Last year, we marked this in Kubwa. We decided to come to Keffi this year to sensitize people to know their HIV status. As it is, Nigeria is the second most-burdened with HIV. We need to support the government. We need to support other organizations to make sure that people know their status. When they know their status, they can take necessary action to make sure that AIDS, even if we cannot cure as it is, is well-managed,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Site Coordinate for AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Nasarawa state, Dr Azihaiwe Austin, said his organization was inspired by the fact the event was organized to ginger the people to know their status.
“We are here to commemorate the World AIDS Day by making sure people know their status. The theme for this year commemoration is “know your status.” So, we are mobilizing people to get themselves tested.
“Those who are negative will remain negative by making sure they protect themselves and those who are positive will make sure they get the right treatment. We are also here to celebrate those that have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS. We are also celebrating the progress made on the fight against HIV. Back in the days, there were no drugs, when HIV started in the ‘80s, there were no drugs. But, right now, there are drugs that are well tolerated by the body and with good treatment outcome. So, we are celebrating progress, and we hope in few years to come, we will have a cure for this disease.”
He explained that “part of the mission statement of AIDS Healthcare Foundation is to provide cutting-edge medicine and treatment, regardless of our ability to pay. We provide advocacy. We ensure the rights of people living with HIV are protected. We ensure that they get treatment, and not just providing the drug, we also advocate. We meet policy makers to make sure they have policies that are favourable to people living with HIV.”
Similarly, Sales Rep, MTN Keffi, Elizabeth Atseu, said the telecom giant was inspired by the need to protect the health of the people of the nation by the campaign. “We are interested in the well being of the nation and the people where we find ourselves…We are particularly interested in AIDS because it touches the youth. We have a lot of products, the bulk of our markets are the youth.
“More than 50 percent of Nigerians are youth. So, we are really interested. We see it as part of giving back to the community. We take it as one of our corporate social responsibility to enlighten the community that we find ourselves, on the potential hazard it could have, if HIV continues to spread unabated.”
Asked if there is unique innovation MTN could come up with to further enlighten Nigerians in the disease, she said there were a lot of platforms within the organization that could be harmonized to boost the fight against the scourge.
One of the people tested at the event, Musa Kabiru, said it was the first time he had come for HIV test. “The party they organized here today convinced me. The party actually brought me here. I love the strategy they use to convince someone like me. You can see us dancing, winning and swimming. With my result today, I know I can plan my life better,” he said.