Group takes HIV sensitisation campaign to FCT community

Pioneer Masters of Public Health (MPH) students of Nile university have sensitised residents of Kuchingoro -a densely populated community in the outskirts of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, on prevention of HIV/AIDs disease and stigma as part of efforts to curb the scourge in the country.

In addition to sensitising the community, MPH also provided free testing, guidance, and counselling for residents during the outreach to mark the just concluded World AIDS Day 2021. The group also held a sensitization seminar to brainstorm on the state of HIV/AIDS in the country.

Course Representative of the Pioneer Cohort, Sulayman Abu-Bakr observed that the 2021 theme “End inequalities. End AIDS” stresses the need to increase HIV awareness and knowledge, tackle HIV stigma, and call for increased response.

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“In our outreach, where we carried out free testing, counselling, and sensitization, we still observed people continue to hold misleading information about HIV/AIDS. Misinformation hinders efforts to eradicate the HIV/AIDS pandemic; this is why seminars such as these are important to remind us of all of where we are and where we need to be. We must remember that as public health professionals, we have a duty to enlighten those around us,” he said.

Quoting recent UNAIDS statistics, Abu-Bakr said 38 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, and in 2020 alone, 1.5 million people became newly infected with HIV.

“While millions of people today are accessing life-saving antiretroviral therapy, millions more still desperately need it. While COVID has understandably been at the forefront of the global health movement, we can’t afford to drop momentum in our battle against – “the other pandemic,” he stressed.

He informed outreach had 16 members of Pioneer MPH cohort as well a 5-man team from Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) to carry out free testing. Of the 55 people tested, Abu-Bakr informed that 54 returned negative while 1 person tested positive.

Zara Abba Aji, the Vice Course Representative of the MPH cohort, in her presentation on “Targeting Key Populations in the fight against HIV/AIDS” discussed the key population that HIV affects the most with a focus on MSM (Men who have sex with men). She talked about the context of homosexuality in Nigeria breaking it down to those who do it as part of spiritual ritual and those who are homosexuals but get married to women to fit societal norms and bisexual men who tend to engage in risky sexual behaviour.

On December 1 of every year, the world gathers to show support for people living with HIV/AIDS and to remember those who have died from AIDS-related illnesses. Since its establishment in 1988, not a single year has passed without marking World AIDS Day.