Youth NGO decries neglect of HIV/AIDS following COVID-19 outbreak



By Abiesmwense Moru

Mr Aaron Sunday, Executive Director, African Network of Adolescent and Young People Development (ANAYD), has decried the neglect of HIV/AIDS as global attention shifts to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sunday, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Abuja, advocated for more senstisation on HIV/AIDS alongside COVID-19, among adolescents and young persons in the country.

“Due to the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic, HIV/AIDS issues have been silenced, especially among the adolescents and young.

“This situation calls for a serious concern among infected adolescents and young people. There is the need to adhere to Antiretroviral drugs (ARV) regimes, but many no longer see HIV/AIDS as something to worry about. This is scary.

“Patients must be encouraged to maintain uptake of their drugs to achieve viral load suppression and live a normal life.

“It is also good to enlighten people to the fact that HIV/AIDS is not a dead sentence once one can adhere to the drugs,” he said.

Similarly, Mr Ekanem Itoro, Senior Advocacy Lead for ANAYD, said that the drivers of HIV/AIDS issues were now mostly concerned about COVID-19, thereby limiting the access to ARV among positive youth and other vulnerable population in Nigeria.

He encouraged Young People Living with HIV (YPLHIV) to avoid self-stigmatisation and maintain proper nutrition as it could boost their immune system.

“If you are a young person living with HIV, you are not limited to any positive achievements of life and you can be a role model in the society through continuous behavioural change activities.

“As an adolescent, do your best to know your status as this will help to mitigate HIV pandemic in Nigeria thereby achieving agenda 2030.

“If you come out positive, there are free drugs and they are accessible in some healthcare facilities,” he said.

Mr Anibueze Chidiebere, Executive Director of Hero’s Health Community Support Initiative (HHCSI), who spoke on the place on HIV/AIDS in a world focused on COVID-19, said that he had counseled young people living with HIV on the need to adhere to their drugs.

He regretted that COVID-19 caught the world unprepared with no proven and available medical response, while its impact left many jobless.

“COVID-19 has created a very negative impact among the adolescents and young persons. Some have lost their jobs while many cannot feed. The situation was particularly bad during the lockdown.

“Government and relevant stakeholders must come to the aid of the adolescents and young persons because if nothing is done, some of them with HIV infections could die from other opportunistic infections that could have been treated with little.”

Chidiebere advised adolescents and young people to always ensure proper hygiene and know their HIV/AIDS status for better healthy living. (NAN)

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