Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF), says it is targeting 50,000 adolescents and young people for HIV/AIDS sensitisation training, as part of activities marking the 2019 World AIDS Day (WAD).
The Foundation’s Coordinator in Benue, Dr Odouka Effiong, who disclosed this on Tuesday at a news conference to mark the WAD in Makurdi, said targeting adolescents and young people was to secure their future and build a more health inclusive society.
Effiong said the trainees were drawn from the 23 local government areas (LGAS) of the state.
She described the theme of the event; “Communities Make the Difference” as apt because of the central position communities occupied in the fight against the scourge.
The coordinator regretted the rising cases of HIV infections in the state, noting that they were mostly due to restrictions on testing.
She, therefore, called on governments at all levels to review the consent age and allow those below 18 years to avail themselves of HIV testing, and consequently assess treatment.
The coordinator said the entry point to HIV treatment was testing; and called on people, especially adolescents and women, whom she described as “the face of HIV’’ to make themselves available for tests.
She said the HIV prevalence rate in Benue had dropped from 14.1 to 5.3 per cent and assured the people that with sustained sensitisation and treatment, the rate would be controlled.
She said those between the age of 20 and 24 years, had 3.9 per cent infections while those within 50-55 years, had 3.8 per cent infections.
She said the viral suppression in the state was at 80 per cent in all active communities of the state.
“We have cutting edge medical services and medicines for victims free of charge,” Effiong added.
Also speaking, the National Advocacy Manager of the foundation, Mr Steve Aborishade, called on the state government to support the foundation by funding its programmes.
Aborishade regretted that the age of consent for testing and treatment of the viral disease was inhibiting progress and urged governments for review since teenagers were now more sexually active.
He said in spite of the successes recorded in the fight against the scourge, new infections were still on the rise.
Quoting a 2018 Nigeria HIV/Aids Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS), he said Benue had 188,000 untreated HIV cases.
The HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act 2014, makes it illegal to discriminate against people based on their HIV status.
It also prohibits any employer, individual or organisation from requiring a person to take a HIV test as a precondition for employment or access to services.
The bill against HIV/AIDS stigma was signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014.