In a bid to curtail the rising incidences of HIV/AIDS in the country, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), Total and other partners have collaborated to drive awareness and sensitise students across secondary schools in Lagos on the disease and preventive measures.
In commemoration of the 2019 World AIDS Day which is celebrated every December 1 with the theme ‘Communities makes the difference’, the campaign will help reduce the spread of HIV and AIDS in Nigeria.
The awareness campaign was for five selected senior secondary schools in education district 4, Lagos State. The schools are Ajigbeda Girls Senior Secondary School, Gbaja Girls, Ideal Girls, Ansir Ur Deen, and Government Senior College, Eric Moore.
Speaking at the event, Ajukwura Wokomah, general manager -corporate social responsibility (CSR), Total Upstream Nigeria limited said the United Nations programmes on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), said that the organisation believes that young people need to be aware of the disease, noting that with such knowledge they can protect themselves, families and communities against HIV/AIDS.
“We believe that students of your age need to be aware of the disease because with knowledge comes the ability to make informed decisions to protect yourselves, your families, and your communities against HIV/AIDS,” Wokomah said.
He stated that youths are the most vulnerable to HIV infection due to ignorance and engagement in risky behaviours such as drug abuse, cult activities, blood rituals, and sexual exposure whether by consent or rape.
“As we all know HIV/AIDS has become a major global health crisis in the past three decades. The disease has also become a real development challenge especially for developing nations where young people, who are the most productive segments of the population remains at risk,”
Wokomah added that there is a link between the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS and the level of ignorance among the public saying that at Total, we believe that raising public awareness on this scourge is a sure way to combat it.
AIDS is a set of symptoms (or syndrome as opposed to a virus) caused by HIV. A person is said to have AIDS when their immune system is too weak to fight off infection, and they develop certain defining symptoms and illnesses. This is the last stage of HIV when the infection is very advanced, and if left untreated will lead to death.
However, about 40 million people have died of AIDS-related illnesses; 37.9 million people are living with the virus with a global HIV prevalence of 0.8%. Unfortunately, a vast majority of people living with HIV are in low- and middle- income countries which include Nigeria. In Nigeria, 1.9 million people are living with HIV with a national prevalence of 1.4%.
Gbenga Alabi, executive secretary, Nigeria Business Coalition Against AIDS (NIBUCCA) said the school and education system in and around the world play a major role in shaping the attitudes, opinions, and behaviour of young people who are important group and potential resource for the prevention of HIV and achieving 90-90-90 target.
“Every year, December 1, presents us with an opportunity to reflect on how far we have gone in addressing the challenges of HIV/AIDS. The theme for the 2019 campaign is communities’ makes the difference which emphasizes the role which individuals, Age groups, peers, Government, and the corporate world could play towards ending AIDS by 2030.”
Alabi, therefore, commended saying it with great privilege and honour that NIBUCCA is identifying with the strategic and laudable school-based awareness project addressing reproductive health in the context of HIV/AIDs.
“This is the fourth edition of the senior secondary school Awareness project and we have been able to reach out to various schools in three (3) districts out of the 6 districts in Lagos state, as we still look forward to spreading this awareness program and empower young students with the necessary knowledge and life skill set they require to keep on forging on in life,” he said.
Alabi further said that the project will be empowering students in the identified five schools with reproductive health-related information, empowering Girl- Child with assertive and life-building skills. Also, Anti- AIDS Club will be established in the beneficiary schools for reasonable effective coverage, effective participation, and sustainability.
“I urge us all to work collectively and aggressively to support the youths who are the future leaders, for the overall well-being of the country, towards the actualisation of Good health and well being, which will in turn drive a decent work and economic growth and sustainable communities as contained in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.