On Saturday, December 1, nations will mark the World’s AIDS Day, a day set aside to raise awareness of the AIDS problem exacerbated by the spread of HIV infection. The programme is also used to remember those who have died of AIDS.
The theme for this year is: “Know your status,” an auspicious coinage reminding people across the world to know, at every point in their lives, whether they are HIV positive or free. Put in another way, it is reminding people to do test for HIV and know their status.
Nations take HIV/AIDS serious. This is understandable. By last year, AIDS had killed between 28.9 million and 41.5 million people worldwide. To make matter worse, it is believed that about 36.7 million people are living with HIV across the globe.
James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter, two public information officers for the Global Programme on AIDS at the World Health Organisation, conceived the World AIDS Day in August 1987. In the first two years, the theme of World AIDS Day focused on children and young people.
Nigeria is believed to have the second largest HIV issues in the world. With South Africa and Uganda, Nigeria accounts for around half of all new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa every year, despite achieving a five per cent reduction in new infections between 2010 and last year.
Statistics revealed that six states in Nigeria account for 41 per cent of people living with HIV. They include Kaduna, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Lagos, Oyo, and Kano.
Factors believed to be responsible for HIV prevalence in the country are due to such practices as homosexuality, injected drugs, and patronage of commercial sex workers, among others.
Young women are more prone to HIV, than young men. Two years ago, it was estimated that 46,000 young women were infected with HIV, while 33,900 young men were infected. This has been blamed on ignorance and lack of HIV education.
Interesting, Nigeria had released a National HIV Strategy for Adolescents and Young People in 2016, which “provides a set of guidelines co-created with young people.”
This National Strategic Framework laid out by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (formerly National Action Committee on AIDS), established in February 2000 to coordinate the various activities of HIV/AIDS in the country, and, set targets for the next five years, to provide 90 per cent of the general population with HIV prevention interventions by 2021 and for 90 per cent of key populations to be adopting HIV risk reduction behaviours by 2021.
The National Strategic Framework, among other things, aims to increase condom use among young people and those who have never been married. It aims for 90 per cent of people to be using condoms regularly by 2021.
While governments and nations are making efforts, there are things individuals must do, as part of the fight against HIV/AIDS. They include:
Know your status
As this year’s World’s AIDS Day theme stated, people must thrive to know their status. A report at poz.com said one in every five persons living with HIV in the United States don’t know they are posi- tive. In Nigeria, one in every 20 people does not know their status. It is therefore imperative to take a quick blood or oral swab test, to know your HIV status.
Connect to care
Those who test positive to HIV must know that managing the pandemic is teamwork, among doctors, physician assistants or nurses.
HIV treatment is now easier and safer. Treatment prolongs health and survival, even when there may be side effect. It reduces the risk of HIV transmission.
Take your meds.
During treatment, you must take your medicines. Do not skip doses as it could have serious consequences. This includes making you immune to HIV treatment.
Do not smoke
With HIV, tobacco use increases risk of heart disease and cancer. Therefore, you must quit smoking if you indulge. If you don’t, never pick up the habit when infected with HIV.
Know your rights
Stand up against discrimination. If you think you’ve been discriminated against or aren’t sure if you’re required to disclose your HIV status to sexual partners, contact your local HIV/AIDS organisation to learn more.
Food not to eat
Under HIV, T-cell count goes down. If it is below 200, you become more prone to bacterial infections and therefore must avoid raw foods, like sushi or oysters, which may contain fungi or bacteria.
An expert said: “You should also avoid soft cheeses made from unpasteurised milk (Brie, Camembert) and any with mold (Roquefort or other blue cheeses).
“All meats should be well cooked, and leftovers should be refrigerated immediately or tossed out.”