The Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) has raised an alarm about the high prevalence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Dr Danjuma Sanda, Regional Manager of IHVN raised the alarm on Friday in Abuja, in commemoration of the 2023 World AIDS Day, stressing “new HIV infections persist”.
Sanda emphasised the urgent need for increased awareness and effective measures to address the HIV situation in the FCT.
According to him, the prevalence of HIV in Abuja is a cause for concern and requires immediate attention from the government, healthcare professionals, and the general public.
“Annually on December, 1, we come together to celebrate, showing solidarity and support for those affected and infected by HIV.
“Recognising the impact on families and communities, we stood in unity, expressing that we are in this together.
“This year’s World AIDS Day theme emphasizes community leadership, and I’m optimistic about seeing leaders among us.
“Collaboration is key as we strive to reach hard-to-reach communities. Despite reaching 95 per cent saturation in the FCT, new infections persist, urging us to intensify testing efforts.
“We have the resources—test kits, prevention tools like condoms—and leaders are called to action.
“Testing is crucial; it’s an opportunity for everyone to know their HIV status. Remember, HIV is not a death sentence; we have life-saving antiretroviral medication. Let us tackle this challenge together,” he explained.
Sanda highlighted the importance of raising awareness about HIV transmission, prevention, and treatment options to combat the spread of the virus.
He called for intensified efforts to provide accessible and affordable healthcare services, including HIV testing, counselling, and treatment facilities in Abuja.
He stressed the significance of early detection and prompt treatment to ensure better health outcomes for individuals living with HIV.
Furthermore, Sanda emphasised the importance of community engagement and involvement in tackling the HIV epidemic.
He called for collaborations between government agencies, non-profit organizations, and local communities to develop and implement effective strategies to control the spread of HIV in Abuja.
He also highlighted the need for targeted interventions among key populations, such as sex workers, men who have sex with men, and people who inject drugs.
Sanda stressed the importance of non-discriminatory and inclusive healthcare services to ensure that everyone, regardless of their background or lifestyle, has access to HIV prevention and treatment services.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Hon. Christopher Zakka, has urged the people of AMAC to unite in combating this wave of HIV and put an end to the pain it inflicts.
Zakka, who was represented by Mr Mustafa Abdulkarim, Acting Director, AMAC, said that the council would continue to work with relevant agencies to prevent and control the spread of HIV and AIDS.
He said that in communities living with, and affected by HIV, networks of people from key populations and youth leaders have been, and continue to be essential for progress in the HIV response in AMAC.
He said that relevant agencies and sober partners have continued to provide essential prevention, testing and treatment support services in the FCT.
He also said that AMAC partnered with various advocacy groups to create awareness in the fight against HIV and AIDS in the territory.
Meanwhile, on the sidelines; IHVN laboratory Van and staff were at the venue for people to be tested by certified test counsellors.
One of the counsellors, who pleaded anonymity, said that this was in honour of World AIDS Day, and anyone could walk in to be offered free, walk-in HIV testing.
“As a counsellor, I am prepared to answer any patient’s questions and, if needed, connect them with the services they need.
“According to available data, an estimated 20 per cent of the people who have HIV do not even know they’re infected.
“People who don’t know they have HIV have a higher risk of serious medical problems and death. They can also pass the virus to others,” he said.
He said it was important to receive an early diagnosis when it comes to treating and living with HIV, as the illness was known to damage the immune system over time.
He said that the infection often goes undiagnosed because there may not be any obvious signs and symptoms.
“That’s why it’s important to get tested regularly, especially if you have multiple sex or needle-sharing partners,” he advised.
Each year, on 1 December, the world commemorates World AIDS Day. People around the world unite to show support for people living with HIV and to remember those who have died from AIDS-related illnesses.
Each World AIDS Day focuses on a specific theme, which this year is Global solidarity, and shared responsibility.
This year’s theme joins a growing list of challenges that World AIDS Day has alerted people to globally.
Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first-ever international day for global health.
Every year, United Nations agencies, governments and civil society join together to campaign around specific themes related to HIV.