A former chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in Akwa Ibom State, Aniekeme Uwah, has said that the prevalence rate of HIV/AIDs in the state is “worrisome and unacceptable.”
The Nigerian HIV/AIDs Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS) has shown that Akwa Ibom has the highest prevalence rate of HIV in the country.
About 5.5 per cent of the people living with HIV in Nigeria are in Akwa Ibom State, followed by Benue State, which has about 5.3 per cent prevalence rate, according to the findings of the survey released on Thursday in Abuja.
“The HIV/AIDs prevalence rate in our dear state is really worrisome and unacceptable, to say the least,” Mr Uwah, a medical doctor, said in a statement he issued in Uyo on Sunday in a response to the survey findings.
Mr Uwah said now was not the time for blame games, rather all hands must be on deck. “If you are not infected, you are affected,” he said.
“By so doing, we will take our state out from the infamous position which is capable of increasing the morbidity and mortality rates in the state, decimating our workforce and adversely affecting the policies of government geared towards driving Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and human traffic to the state to boost our tourism industry,” Mr Uwah said.
Mr Uwah gave suggestions on what government, organisations, and individuals could do to curb the spread of HIV/AIDs in Akwa Ibom.
“Every Akwa Ibomite must take full responsibility for their health and well-being, including not contracting HIV/AIDs.
“Therefore, the strategy to adopt is as simple as ABC – abstinence, being mutually faithful, and correct and consistent use of condoms.”
Mr Uwah advised the ministry of education in the state to partner with relevant agencies to set up HIV/AIDs club and Peer Education Training (PET) in secondary schools across the state.
“Youth Corps members who serve in secondary schools could be trained as Peer Educator Trainers (PETs) during their orientation camp. They will, in turn, train their students on basic knowledge on HIV/AIDs and its prevention, and also serve as their mentors.”
Mr Uwah said corporate bodies in the state should incorporate the fight against HIV/AIDs into their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes.
“These could be in the form of free slots for jingles in the radio and TV stations.
“The owners of print media houses could also give free spaces in their newspapers and magazines for adverts on HIV/AIDs.
“Other corporate bodies like oil companies, construction companies, agro-allied companies etc should also include HIV /AIDs into their CSR.
“Social media influencers should also take up the fight by sharing messages on HIV/AIDs through the social media (WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc). This will ensure that the large population of young people who are on social media is reached.
“The government has a very big role to play in combating this scourge in the state. Thankfully, Governor Udom Emmanuel-led administration has taken some proactive steps by establishing agencies that will help in the fight.”
Mr Uwah advised the state government to strengthen its agencies and institutions through increased funding and capacity building to enable them to deliver on their core mandates.
“The HIV/AIDs prevalence rate in Akwa Ibom State is really alarming and therefore should not be taken lightly because HIV/AIDs has no cure.
“While implementing the strategies highlighted above, urgent measures should be taken to begin massive awareness campaigns across the state to preserve the lives of our children and generations yet unborn,” he added.