December 1st is another opportunity to remind the people about HIV/AIDS cases and people’s role in eliminating the virus. Today in Nigeria, the national HIV prevalence is 1.4% among adults aged 15–49 years. Previous estimates had indicated a national HIV prevalence of 2.8%. UNAIDS and the National Agency for the Control of AIDS estimate that there are 1.9 million people living with HIV in Nigeria. The country, which practices a democratic system of government shows that democracy is the government of the people by the people and for the people so also in relation to this year’s theme – Communities make the difference. The impact of the people in the community should be felt in the concerns of HIV/AIDS related cases.
Development Communications Network calls on organisations, key stakeholders, community leaders to take charge in the planning, decision making and active response to HIV/AIDS cases. Government in particular should support and acknowledge the efforts of community led organisations for the decline of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.
According to the Program Director, Akin Jimoh, the media plays a vital role in the spread of HIV/AIDS awareness, community drama, documentary and all other forms of edutainment can serve as a channel for community change. So many people living with HIV/AIDS do not know their status and are not informed of the right measures that should be taken.
It is the right of the community members to be informed and aware of their HIV status most importantly the youth in the community. Everyone is important in making decisions, the commercial sex workers should be given the ideal sexual education and the importance of modern contraceptives- condom with clients. An average youth should know the importance of family planning and the use of condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections. These key stakeholders should not be left behind in discussions of HIV/AIDS. They should be involved in the decision making other than imposing policies that are unrealistic on them.
The right of each citizen to have sex and health education is important. Mother-to-child transmission of HIV during conception, delivery or through breastfeeding can only be prevented or reduced if people are informed. This is the main channel children gets infected with HIV.
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According to the result of a survey carried out by the UNAIDS, significant efforts have been made in recent years to stop new HIV infections among children as the HIV prevalence new data among children 0-14 is 0.2%. If these efforts are progressing, we are sure to produce free HIV victims in the next generations.
Identifying some community leaders who are HIV positive as advocates to help spread the need for people to get tested, know their status and get treated if infected. This will also help to reduce the stigma and discrimination attached to being HIV positive. Many times, it is not the virus that kills people but the stigma. We have seen cases of people who are living healthy for over 10 to 15 years as HIV positive. These HIV advocates can be trained as caregivers in such a way that infected people can relate to.
Also, the HIV/AIDS hotline should be rejuvenated by community-led organisations. The first of its kind in Nigeria was a 24-hour telephone initiative by the Youth Empowerment Foundation in 2001 mainly to reach out to the youth to inform them of messages that centers on HIV/AIDS. This will serve as a mobile community friendly center for the whole community.
There is need for community engagement in the issue of HIV/AIDS to make the difference that ought to be achieved.
Development Communications Network is a media support organization with resources to help journalists in reporting science, public health and social sector issues.
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