Posted by Vanguard on
SINCE the first case of the twin ailment, HIV and AIDS, was reported in Nigeria in 1986, the epidemic has expanded rapidly in Benue State. In spite of Nigeria’s last sentinel survey, which recorded a decrease in new infections in Benue State, the pandemic has continued to be visible, especially among adults.
MAKURDI—SINCE the first case of the twin ailment, HIV and AIDS, was reported in Nigeria in 1986, the epidemic has expanded rapidly in Benue State. In spite of Nigeria’s last sentinel survey, which recorded a decrease in new infections in Benue State, the pandemic has continued to be visible, especially among adults.
In the state the pandemic has extended beyond the commonly classified high-risk groups and has for some time now become prominent in the general population. Meanwhile, some parts of the state are more affected than others though no part of Benue has been spared.
Investigations in three local government areas namely: Logo, Katsina-Al and Ukum have confirmed that the infection rate is far from abating. Recently, something extra ordinary happened in Uzer-Azo village in Logo Local Government Area. A total of six person reportedly died in two days as a result of complications resulting from HIV and AIDS infection.
A relative of one of the deceased, Mr Peter Uzer, said "I am shocked that though we (the family members) escaped death from the Jukun crisis, yet we are silently being killed by HIV and AIDS. This ailment is still very much around us".
Uzer is the head of the elders’ council of Uzer-Azo village.
Travelling to urban towns (namely, Ayilamom, Anyiin, Ugba, Zaki-Bam, Kado, within the local government area, the situation is similar. Rev. Makurdi J. Girgi (DJP) is the pastor in-charge, Group of Christians in Sudan among Tiv (N.K.S.T) Zaki-Biam central. He is the vice chairman of the committee of Zaki-Biam classes.
According to Rev. Girgi "no day passes without the communities losing two persons or more, including children, to HIV and AIDS". He further said that it was obvious that more people would die if something drastic was not done to stem the spate of deaths. He advised that people to change their behaviour to avoid contracting HIV and AIDS, especially the youth.
Some members of the church have continued also to lament over the death toll arising from HIV and AIDS.
They all agree that the resultant deaths have continued to increase.
The infection cuts across both sexes and all age groups but the worst affected are girls and boys, who are sexually active. Although AIDS has no known cure yet, people in some remote areas do not have important information, which can empower them to remain unprotected.Those in some very remote areas lack specific knowledge about prevention and the means and resources to care for the infected.
These three councils stand a risk of an increasing the number of children being either infected with the virus, through mother to child transmission, or losing one or both parents to the disease. The issue of stigma and discrimination also restrict open discussion about HIV and AIDS.
But reporting the situation in those local government areas does not call for stigmatizing such areas, instead, people should focus on working out strategies for interventions to avert future infection and improve care for the infected.
Poverty is another factor, which has been driving HIV and AIDS in those part of Benue. Meanwhile, it is obvious that the communal crisis between Tiv, Fulani and Jukun in Taraba and part of Nasarawa states has further provided the environment for HIV and AIDs to thrive.
This is because the displacement of residents of the areas has further impoverished the people, making it difficult for them to eat well, access medical care, laboratory services or purchase anti-retro viral drugs.
Social workers have suggested that campaigns should be intensified on specific prevention and care in churches and mosques. This should not be problematic since the Christian Health Association of Nigeria (CHAN) and the Islamic Association of Nigeria (ISMA) are in support of such efforts. The media too could translate such massages into local languages.
Federal, state government and all organizations should collaborate to ensure the teaching of federal government approved sexuality education even from the primary schools level.
The aim will be to reach all people at the grassroots. When children are taught important things about life several times, it will be difficult for them to forget it. Also, children can teach their parents, peers and relatives best practices to safeguard life.
HIV and AIDS advocates suggest that strategies be worked out to ensure that HIV and AIDS messages get to all. Experts say this should be done without colossal waste of resources.
Other stakeholders, such as HIV/AIDS Initiative Nigeria (GHAIN), UNDP and others can establish offices in these local government areas with heavy disease burden. GHAIN is already making great strides to prevent new infections by educating people living withHIV/AIDS and other vulnerable.
It is obvious that many Non Governmental Organisation (NGOs) have been working to reduce the rate of infection in Benue , such efforts must be sustained to avoid a relapse.
Religious leaders should intensify prayers for a cure while researchers should also strive harder to establish a cure. These two groups must not relent because HIV and AIDS are ravaging our youths, who need to be preserved as our future generations.
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