Years of secret efforts by 16 Nigerians in the fight against HIV/AIDS were rewarded openly in Abuja, last week, by the National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA). Few weeks ago, they were honoured by the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), in Abuja, for their selfless contributions to the fight against HIV/AIDS.
PEPFAR has been supporting the fight against HIV in Nigeria for about 15 years. It has also invested in HIV response in Nigeria. Records revealed that it contributed $400 million annually to fight HIV in Nigeria. And 80 per cent of people on treatment in Nigeria are courtesy of PEPFAR.
The awardees were drawn from government, civil society and private sector. The dead among them got post-humous awards and recognition, while others were accompanied by their spouses for recognition and celebration.
They were said to have gone beyond the call of duty to serve HIV/AIDS patients. One of the things they did was provision of outstanding leadership in the campaign against the scourge. They also fought against stigma and discrimination that impede HIV service. They equally came up with diverse initiatives and made great sacrifices for the greater good.
NACA Director General, Dr. Sani Aliyu, appreciated the awardees and reminded them that their stories inspired change and great successes in the fight against HIV/AIDS: “The award should encourage you and others to work harder to stop the spread of the virus in Nigeria. It reflects teamwork and what we should do in response to HIV/AIDS.
“It is also an opportunity for us all to work harder to ensure that we stop having new HIV infections and also stop people from dying from the virus.” He urged the awardees to see their recognition as a challenge to do more towards HIV response:
“This award is a wake-up call for us to do more and move to the next stage. We would make sure that our programmes reflect the amount of resources being invested in the fight. We should be able to show value for money unlike in the past where there was no record to work with.
“The 2018 Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Survey (NAIIS) report gave us clearer picture of HIV/AIDS situation in Nigeria. It will help us to plan and channel energy and resources properly for improved result.”
An awardee, Tobore Ovuorie, said the award was a call for more commitment to the fight against the virus: “Following this award, I have settled and re-strategised to do more.”
Another awardee and initiator of Sex Workers Association (SWA), Alban Anonyuo, said the award was icing on the cake for him, having being engaged in the fight and campaign for HIV for the past 19 years.