As part of activities to mark this year’s World AIDS Day, the pioneer Masters of Public Health (MPH), Nile University, has organised free medical outreach and HIV/AIDS sensitisation for residents of Kuchingoro, a densely populated community in the outskirts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
During the outreach, HIV testing, guidance and counselling were carried out by the group in the community.
Course representative of the pioneer cohort, Sulayman Abubakr, observed that the 2021 theme: “End inequalities. End AIDS” stressed the need to increase HIV awareness and knowledge, tackle HIV stigma, and call for increased response.
He said, “In our outreach, where we carried out free testing, counselling and sensitisation, we still observed that people continue to hold misleading information about HIV/AIDS. Misinformation hinders efforts to eradicate the HIV/AIDS epidemic, this is why seminars such as these are important to remind us all of where we are and where we need to be. We must remember that as public health professionals, we have a duty to enlighten those around us.”
Quoting recent UNAIDS statistics, Abubakr said 38 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, and in 2020 alone, 1.5 million people became newly infected with HIV.
“While millions of people today are accessing life-saving antiretroviral therapy, millions more still desperately need it. While COVID has understandably been at the forefront of the global health movement, we can’t afford to drop momentum in our battle against – “the other pandemic,” he stressed.
According to him, the outreach had 16 members of Pioneer MPH cohort as well a five-man team from Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) to carry out free testing. Of the 55 people tested, Abu-bakr reported that 54 returned negative while 1 person tested positive.
In her presentation on “Targeting Key Populations in the fight Against HIV/AIDS” vice course rep, Zara Abba Aji, talked about the context of homosexuality in the country – breaking it down to those who do it as part of spiritual ritual and those who are homosexuals but get married to women to fit societal norms and bisexual men who tend to engage in risky sexual behaviour.
On December 1 of every year, the world gathers to show support for people living with HIV/AIDS and to remember those who have died from AIDS-related illnesses. Since its establishment in 1988, not a single year has passed without marking World AIDS day.