North-West self-testing campaign launched in Kaduna
Sola Ojo, Kaduna
Nigeria loses about 53,000 citizens to HIV/AIDS-related deaths annually, a study by the National Aids Impact Assessment Study has revealed.
From this study, it appeared that the HIV prevalence is reducing with about 1.9 million people currently living with the virus, 130,000 new HIV infection per annum while many are yet to know their status, hence, the launch of HIV self-testing campaign to realise the United Nations goal of 95/95/95 target by the year 2030.
HIV self-testing, (HIVST) is a process whereby an individual collects his or her specimen, performs a test and interprets the results often in a private setting either alone or with someone he or she trusts.
In an interview with newsmen, member, Governing Council, Civil Society for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (CISHAN), Northwest, Emmanuel Bonnet, said the launch of HIVST campaign in the zone was paramount because all over the country NACA, CISHAN were partnering stakeholders to ensure everyone has a good understanding of what HIVST is.
‘We also need to let the communities take up the service on their own. For example, if you do a test at home, you should know what to do next if the result is positive which is to go and have a confirmation test and if the result is positive again, you need a referer to get the necessary care you need.
‘We have NURTW, market women, pharmacists, civil society, media and other stakeholders here to unbundle the services. We do understand that there is a lot of fear when people are positive or get the wrong result. That is why the stakeholders are being trained to handle any issue that may arise,’ Bonnet said.
Programme Director, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria Foundation, Munir Elelu, shed more light on the campaign describing the prevalence rate as ‘a matter of grave concern to public health in Nigeria.’
He said, for all to be able to achieve the United Nations goal of 95/95/95 per cent in 2030, all hands must be on deck.
‘Now, about 70 per cent of Nigerians have access to community pharmacists as the first point of call for their health care services. So, we have conducted an orientation for the pharmacists in this regard on ease of access to HIV testing commodities which is a very important way to reduce HIV prevalence in Nigeria.
’95/95/95 per cent of the UN goal is to achieve 95 per cent of the population knowing their status, 95 per cent of those who know their status have access to health care treatment and by the year 2030, we achieve 95 per cent suppression of the viral load of those that are positive,’ he explained.
Chief of Party/Country Lead, Nigeria, John Snow Incorporated, Nigeria, Olawole Durosinmi-Etti, said his organisation technically support the government and other stakeholders to improve access to HIV services in Nigeria.
‘The prevalence based on the research recently conducted by the National Aids Impact Assessment Study revealed that we have less number of people living with HIV aids compare to about three million we thought we had before.
‘We have about 1.9 million currently based on that study. But there still several people who don’t know their status.
‘So, this meeting will tell people that they don’t need to go to the hospital before they know their HIV status because they can visit a community pharmacist or a patent medicine stores and ask for HIV testing kit just like someone can ask for the pregnancy test kit,’ he added.
However, the Executive Secretary, CISHAN, Walter Ugwuocha, warned that Kaduna State may be left behind in achieving the UN goal of 95/95/95 2030 target if urgent steps are not taken to improve its awareness campaign on HIV as current statistics showed that the state was lagging behind.