Joe Effiong, Uyo
Akwa Ibom State Government has expressed intent to enact a law that would enable it prosecute persons who willfully infect or transmit the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) to others.
This came in the wake of President Muhammadu Buhari’s unveiling of the Nigeria AIDS Indicator Survey and Impact Survey (NAIIS) last week, which revealed that the state tops the highest HIV prevalence scale with 5.5 percent against the national prevalence of 1.4 percent for the age group of 15 to 64 years.
Commissioner for Health, Dominic Ukpong, who addressed newsmen, in Uyo, yesterday, while reacting to the NAIIS result, said other long term measures to be adopted to bring the prevalence down would be to lead advocacy to the legislative arm of government, to put in place laws to protect PLHIV, and to curb transmission of new infections by expeditiously deliberating and passing the bill on anti-stigma and discrimination against PLHIV/AIDS.
“We will lead advocacy to local government areas in the state to lend regular and dedicated support for HIV intervention and other health programmes in their respective councils,” Ukpong said as one of the long term measures.
But, for the time being, he said the state government would increase access to testing services by providing enough rapid test kits, so that all primary and secondary health facilities in the state would be able to provide free HIV testing services to the citizens.
The state government, Ukpong said, would also increase “access to treatment, by creating new comprehensive treatment centres to be fully supported by the state government; these will complement other comprehensive treatment centres supported by international partners.
The commissioner attributed the high prevalence of HIV in the state to many factors.
“The location of the state with a large coastal from of 129 kilometres, stretching from Ikot Abasi to Oron, an airport, good road network, peaceful environment, friendly disposition of our people, good cuisines and fast developing economy have made our state the destination of choice for both national and international visitors. All these are not without attendant public health consequences, like transmission of communicable diseases, which HIV/AIDS cannot be excluded,” he said.
He also said the scaling down of HIV/AIDS campaign in the state was due to limited healthcare resources.
“The current HIV/AIDS situation in the state calls for a more robust multi-sectoral response towards curbing the epidemic. Consequently, the state government will step up collaboration through the Akwa Ibom State Agency for the Control of AIDS (AKSACA) and Akwa Ibom State HIV/AIDS and STI Control Programme (SASCP) with implementing partners, including faith-based organisations, PLHIV/AIDS and other stakeholders, towards proffering immediate and long-term interventions for the state.
“Akwa Ibomites should imbibe the simple ABCs of HIV prevention – Abstinence, Being faithful to one’s partner, Correct and Consistence Condom use and Refraining from the use of illicit drugs which could be injectable or otherwise,” he added.