Stakeholders in the health sector on Monday called for more sensitisation of the public on the need to stop stigmatisation of people living with HIV/AIDS.
The participants, including health experts, spoke at the World AIDS day event organised by the Public Affairs Section of the United States’ Consulate General, Lagos.
The event, themed “Increasing Impact through Transparency, Accountability and Partnerships,” was held at the Lagos State University College of Medicine, Ikeja.
Speaking at the event, Kevin Krapf, the Acting Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Consulate General Lagos said the theme of the programme reflects the U.S. government’s longstanding leadership in addressing global HIV/AIDS and increasing impact of epidemics.
According to him, it also highlights the historic opportunity to accelerate progress toward controlling, and ultimately ending, the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a public health threat in countries around the world.
“According to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Nigeria has the second largest HIV epidemic in the world and has one of the highest new infection rates in sub-Saharan Africa,” he said.
“Many people living with HIV in Nigeria are unaware of their status due to insufficient recommended number of HIV testing and counselling centres. Low access to antiretroviral treatment remains an issue for people living with HIV in Nigeria and I welcome the new commitment of the federal government of Nigeria to use domestic funds to provide antiretroviral drugs to an additional 50,000 people living with HIV each year.”
Through the event, he said, the United States Mission in Nigeria brought together relevant HIV/AIDS stakeholders in Nigeria to share innovative strategies, successes attained, lessons learned, and challenges confronting the fight against HIV/AIDS.
“We are at an unprecedented moment in the global HIV/AIDS response. For the first time in modern history, we have the opportunity to change the very course of a pandemic by controlling it without a vaccine or a cure.
“Controlling the pandemic will lay the groundwork for eliminating or eradicating HIV, which we hope will be possible through the future scientific breakthroughs which lead to an effective HIV vaccine and cure.”
He said, “In Nigeria and around the world, we are closer to controlling the HIV/AIDS pandemic than ever before – binding communities, scientists, and political leaders together to envision a very different future. What once seemed impossible is now possible. But our work is far from done.”
Emmanuel Olaoti, an official of the Society for Family Health, addressed numerous misconceptions and myths surrounding HIV/AIDS. He added that the rights of most people living with the virus are often violated in Nigeria.
He explained that some family members lock up the people and deny them access to some basic facilities in the home. He also sounded a note of caution to the media, saying reportage of HIV/AIDS-related issues should be done with responsibility.
Oluseyi Temowo, Chief Executive Officer of the Lagos State Aids Control Agency, LASACA, n his address, said awareness, testing and strategy must be increased among the people.
“It is our responsibility to ensure that we have AIDS-free generation, AIDS-free Nigeria and AIDS-free Lagos,” he said.