Society flays pre-wedding HIV tests



The Coalition of Civil Society Network for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (COCSNHAN) has called on religious bodies to stop compulsory HIV tests for couples before wedding, saying it is a violation of anti-stigma law.

Mr Ikenna Nwakamma, the First Co-chairman of the society, made the appeal in an interview with the Nigeria News Agency on Monday in Abuja.

He noted that there was need to challenge some practices and narratives that were fuelling stigma and discrimination.

“We need to make scapegoats of individuals and institutions violating the national anti-discrimination Act.

“We need to dialogue with religious leaders to re-construct their narratives about HIV and drop the compulsory HIV test they demand from people preparing for wedding in their congregations.

“Compulsory test by religious bodies is one of the major drivers of HIV stigma and discrimination which is totally against the anti-discrimination Act 2014,’’ he said.

He restated the imperatives of demanding for domestication of the law by state legislatures.

According to Nwakamma, it is unfortunate that despite all the efforts and investments we have made in sensitising people about HIV we still have stigma and discrimination persisting in our society.

The Co-chairman said: “Not long ago, we heard about a health worker who made derogatory statement about her HIV positive clients.

“If the health worker who should know better is so ignorant and attitudinally deficient, you can imagine how it is among the general public,” he noted.

He restated the call for aggressive and continuous engagements and sensitisation of all stakeholders and the general community, especially religious organisations on ways to go.


NEPWHAN commends NACA, UNAIDS for initiating HIV self testing roundtable



The Network of People Living with in Nigeria (NEPWHAN) has commended the leadership of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) and the UN Joint Programme against AIDS (UNAIDS) for initiating roundtable on HIV self-testing in Nigeria.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that NACA and UNAIDS initiated the HIV self-testing roundtable: “Accelerating HIV Self-Testing in Nigeria” on Sept. 15.

The National Coordinator of the network, Mr Abdulkadir Ibrahim, gave the commendation in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Thursday in Abuja.

Ibrahim, who said that the exercise was in line with UNAIDS’s 90-90-90 goals, said it was key to unlocking one of the 90 goals.

He said that self-testing was a roadmap to reducing infection in Nigeria using preventive interventions, having known one’s status.

“Knowing your HIV status is very instrumental in fighting the virus because as soon as you know it, the next step is treatment aimed at suppressing the viral load assuming the status is positive.

“I am very happy with the leadership of NACA and UNAIDS for doing this, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” Ibrahim said.

The national coordinator advised Nigerians, especially youths to support the exercise by participating in self-testing without fear, aimed at reducing HIV in the country.

NAN reports that the West and Central African Region (WCAR) still registered some of the highest rates of new HIV infections worldwide (16 per cent) in spite of a low prevalence of HIV (1.9 per cent).

In this region, only 48 per cent of people living with HIV were are of their status.

To fill this gap, HIV Self-Testing (HIVST) can potentially be an additional approach to overcoming the barriers to diagnose HIV infected patients.

Therefore, being one of the keys to unlocking  the first 90 goals as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) since 2016.

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Peter Ejiofor)
Source: NAN
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Foundation says COVID-19 pushes 37m people into extreme poverty



The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed some 37 million people into extreme poverty, a majority of them in developing countries, a report released on Tuesday by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation shows.

The Goalkeepers 2020 report shows that after 20 straight years of poverty numbers coming down, the disease has reversed the trend.

“The pandemic has pushed almost 37 million people below the 2,000 shillings ($1.9) a day extreme poverty line.

“The poverty line for lower-middle-income countries is $3.20 a day and 68 million people have fallen below that one since last year,’’ says the report.

Apart from fanning poverty, the disease has disrupted food access and exacerbated child and maternal mortality.

“Due to the COVID-19 economic crisis, local food markets are less busy and consumers have less money to buy food, which means small-scale farmers are selling and earning less.

“This is on top of climate stresses that have been getting worse in recent years as well as this year’s locust infestation in East Africa, both of which threaten their livelihoods,’’ says the report.

It added that COVID-19 was causing more women than men to suffer and die, in large number because the pandemic has disrupted healthcare before, during and immediately after childbirth.

“Preventable, treatable complications such as severe bleeding, infection and high blood pressure cause the vast majority of maternal deaths.

“Many healthcare workers who used to manage these emergencies, including experienced nurse-midwives, are being diverted to COVID-19 wards,’’ says the report.

According to the report, ids and tuberculosis patients are the other groups that are worst affected by the pandemic, according to the report.

“Current evidence shows that people living with HIV are at increased risk of death due to COVID-19.

“Before COVID-19, there were already three million ‘missing cases’ of TB; people with active TB who didn’t know it and were passing the disease to others while going untreated themselves.

“Now, that number will grow even larger as people either cannot go to health facilities for diagnosis or choose not to go to avoid the possibility of exposure to COVID-19,’’ notes the report dubbed COVID-19, A Global Perspective.

But many countries have responded to the crisis well, notes the report, investing $18 trillion in economic stimulus proving that the world understands how massive the COVID-19 crisis is.

“Many developing countries are doing impressive work on digital cash transfers that put money directly in people’s hands.

“According to the World Bank, 131 countries have either implemented new programmes or expanded existing ones since February, reaching 1.1 billion people,’’ says the report.

In Africa, eight members of the West African Economic and Monetary Union, allowed people to open accounts by text message or telephone and follow up later to verify their identity in person.

“More than eight million West Africans signed up for accounts while their countries were in lockdown,’’ says the report.

In spite of bleak projections, Bill and Melinda Gates describe a path to ending the pandemic and resuming progress toward the Global Goals.

In the report, which they co-author every year, they call on the world to collaborate on the development of diagnostics, vaccines and treatment

Collaboration is also required in manufacture tests and doses as quickly as possible as well as delivering these tools equitably based on need rather than the ability to pay.

“The response to COVID-19 pandemic has shown us some of the best of humanity like path-breaking innovation, heroic acts by frontline workers and ordinary people doing the best they can for their families, neighbours and communities,’’ Bill and Melinda Gates write.

“This is a shared global crisis that demands a shared global response.’’

The report makes clear that no single country will be able to meet this challenge alone.

Any attempts by one country to protect itself while neglecting others will only prolong the hardships caused by the pandemic.

Developing and manufacturing vaccines will not end the pandemic quickly unless they are delivered equitably.

Edited By: Fatima Sule/Abdulfatah Babatunde
Source: NAN
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COVID-19: Igala nurses support widows, orphanages in FCT



Igala Nurses and Midwives Association (INAMA), Abuja on Monday supported 104 widows and two orphanage homes in the FCT with food items to ease the pain inflicted by COVID-19 pandemic.


The items given to the widows, who came from Gwagwalada, Kuje, Suleja, Karu, Mararaba are: rice, cassava flakes, beans, spaghetti, vegetables oil, Indomie noodles, magi seasoning, salt and little cash to support their transport fare back to their various places.


The Divine Orphanage, Kubwa and Mothers Welfare Group, orphanage, Karu also received bags of rice, cartons of noodles, cartons of juice, toiletries, beverages, detergents, biscuits, medical drugs and others.


The President of the association, Mrs Christie Awunor, while speaking to newsmen during the event said that the donation was done through the support of Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF), an Abuja-based Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO).


According to Awunor, the donation is to assist the people put food on their table, going by the challenges occasioned by the novel Coronavirus.


She said that the association had been in the business of helping people since it was founded in 2007, adding that this particular donation was a special one because of the support it got from AHF.


INAMA has been in existence since 2007; we are a group of nurses who work in different hospitals, organisations, NGOs and ministries and even in schools.


“We put money together to support women who are in need, especially the widows, children in orphanages, young women and girls.

“We put the money together to assist them to do some petty trading and support their families,” she said.


Mrs Helen Wada, former President of the Association, who appreciated AHF for the support, said the association would continue to touch lives to better the lives of women in the society.


The Secretary of the Association, Mrs Mary Nwankwo, also stated that the association had carried out so many routine tests such as checking of blood pressure, sugar level, HIV test and so on to ensure the well-being of women.


Nwankwo said that people who were tested and were down with such illnesses were referred to the appropriate places where they could get treatment by the association.


Mrs Ladi Emmanuel, Mrs Christy Joseph and Mrs Elizabeth Nwogugu, on behalf of other beneficiaries, thanked the association for the care of widows and prayed for God’s blessings  on them.


Mrs Enearu Gloria, the Coordinator, Divine Orphanage home, also appreciated the association for the donation noting that not every Nigerian had the kind of philanthropic disposition as members of the association.

She also appreciated the FCT social welfare department which had been a major support in taking care of the children in her orphanage.

Edited By: Ifeyinwa Okonkwo/Donald Ugwu
Source: NAN
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Improve access to HIV self-testing to prevent stigma, Researcher urges FG



Prof. Oliver Ezechi, Chief Research Fellow, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos, on Friday called for improved access to HIV self-testing kits to reduce stigmatisation and the burden of s.

Ezechi made the call during an online training of journalists on HIV prevention research organised by the New HIV Vaccine and Microbicides Advocacy Society (NHVMAS).

According to him, HIV self-testing kits can be applied in the same manner as it is done when testing for blood pressure, blood sugar level and pregnancy test.

He said it was important for adolescents and young persons to have access to HIV self-testing kits to remove the stigma associated with going to the hospital.

“Our hospitals are not youths or adolescent friendly at all. Imagine a 17- year-old going to the hospital for HIV test and meets with an older person who stigmatises or criticises the teenager for having sex.

“Such attitude discourages adolescents from going to the hospital for HIV test; they will rather go into hiding without getting medical help.

“This is why we keep losing people to deaths occasioned HIV when they do not present themselves early for treatment.

“Issues of sexuality and sex is supposed to be private to an individual, that teenager should not be seen as a sex maniac, rather his health should be prioritised.

“This is why, it is difficult to identify these patients. Out of the 1.8 million people living with in the country, less than one million are on ARVs or treatment.

“For over 20 years, we have been practicing hospital testing and it is not working well due to stigmatisation.

“The only way we can achieve our target in the fight against s is by incorporating HIV self-testing.

“Self-testing will encourage more people to do test and there is an online application on how to use the kits and numbers to call for counselling and treatment in case someone tests positive,” he added.

Ezechi said that HIV self-testing was one of the ways to upscale HIV testing in the country and achieve 95 per cent of detection of people who tested positive to prevent new infections and deaths.

Also, Mrs Florita Durueke, Executive Director, NHVMAS, said that sexual reproductive health for young people or adolescents should be treated as a serious matter and a matter of life and death.

Durueke called for training of hospital personnel to enhance their capacity and promote youth-friendly attitudes.

She also denied the perception that HIV self-testing promotes sex in the society.

“Whether we like it or not, people are having sex. So, what we are saying is that self-testing is a health service to help fight the high rate of HIV infection in the country,” she said.

In a recent report, the National Agency for the Control of AIDS says an estimated 51,000 people living with in Nigeria died in the first two quarters of 2020.

Dr Gambo Aliyu, NACA Director-General, partly blamed the high mortality on lack of access to treatment and the disruption of medical services brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aliyu feared that the number of deaths among PLWHA might worsened, if the disruption to treatment persists for another six months.

The NACA director-general also predicted that an estimated new HIV infection in 2020, which currently stands at 48, 000, could further increase astronomically to 100,000.

Edited By: Dorcas Jonah/Olagoke Olatoye
Source: NAN
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