The United States Government in conjunction with Caritas Nigeria has joined forces to curtail the spread of the dreaded Human Immuno Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in South East Nigeria.
Statistics have shown that Abia State has the highest number of HIV/AIDS cases in the zone.
Speaking during the official launch of the Accelerated Control of HIV, Epidemic and Sustainable Solution Project in Umuahia, the Executive Secretary of Caritas Nigeria, Rev. Fr. Uchechukwu Obodoechina, said the NGO had received a grant from the US Government to combat the pandemic in South East.
The Access Project according to him, is targeted at reaching all the people infected with HIV to give them free diagnosis and treatment.
He added that American Centre for Disease Control and Prevention will undertake the projects for five years in the states under review.
He further urged states in the South East to complement the efforts of the US Government and the NGO to bring the HIV/AIDS epidemic under control.
His words: “We have a grant from the American government and its people to obtain services in Abia State and other parts of South East Nigeria to achieve epidemic control against HIV/AIDS.
“The Government of Nigeria and Abia State should also rise because it’s their responsibility to ensure that the citizens are healthy.
“That’s the essence of government. The government is established to do for the people what they can’t do for themselves. That is the content of the social contract.
“It’s important to realise that when the Government does its work, it has performed its duty. It’s not a charity but responsibility.”
In his reaction, the Abia State Project Director of the programme, Dr Amana Effiong said the project was particularly targeted at people living with HIV/AIDS in some parts of the state who were not reached during the previous exercise of the organisation known as the 4GATES project.
Effiong expressed concern that whereas some states in South East had brought HIV disease under control, Abia State is yet to follow suit.
He however challenged the state Government to rise to the occasion considering the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS.
“Abia is still one of the states with the highest number of people living with HIV without access to treatment,” he regretted, adding that “we have the mandate to find as many people as possible and place them on anti-retroviral treatment.”
He disclosed that the organisation had developed different strategies to reach the target population of HIV/AIDS patients and place them under treatment to live their normal life.
“Currently many of the states in Nigeria have achieved epidemic control and treatment but this is not the case in Abia State.
“Caritas Nigeria has received a mandate to ensure that we achieve treatment saturation in the state.”
In his reaction, the Chief of Access Project, Dr John Oko, identified stigma against people living with HIV/ADIS as the only challenge the organisation faced in their previous projects in the state.
He added that the five-year project in collaboration with other partners will ensure comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment within the states.
Speaking at the event, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Deaconess Frankca Ekwueme, urged those living with HIV disease to always make themselves available for treatment.
She added that the disease” is not a death sentence”, arguing that with proper treatment HIV/AIDS patients could live their normal lives.
Mrs Ekwueme however, condemned the stigmatization of those living with HIV,/AIDS to avoid worsening their situation.