NACA tasks media on reporting issues on HIV Stigmatisation

The National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) has called on the media to continue reporting on issues surrounding HIV stigma, as it is still very high in Nigeria.

NACA made the call during a media tour of HIV facilities in Lafiya, Nasarawa state, north central Nigeria. The purpose of the tour was to enable the editors to have a first hand experience with HIV treatments in the country.

NACA Public Relations Officer Mrs. Toyin Aderibigbe, who led the editors on the tour, said that there is HIV fatigue in the media that needs to end.

“We are happy to be here, I am here with my colleagues. The purpose of the media tour is to let have a life experience with HIV treatment. They’ve done everything, they’ve reported everything but we still want other innovative ways of reporting HIV. We want an human angle to HIV reporting. Despite all the gains we have made in HIV response in the last few years, we still have a small bit of challenge in the area of stigma and discrimination. So, that’s why I want the media people to have a one on one with people living with HIV. We didn’t want to do it in Abuja. That’s why we came to Nasarawa because we know you have best practice. So that’s why we are here”.

Aderibigbe added that the tour would offer the media the opportunity to meet with patients and care givers and have the knowledge to report HIV with empathy.

While receiving the team in Lafiya, the Nasarawa state Coordinator of the state Agency for the control of Aids, Mrs Ruth Bello, emphasised that stigma and discrimination was still a problem in the state. She said that sensitisation was ongoing to end stigmatization in the state.

She also noted that the agency has held talks with traditional and religious leaders to end stigmatization.

“For us in Nasarawa state, we have a prevalence of about 2%. We are hoping to get to zero. We have a lot of media engagement here in the state. We have a lot of engagements with traditional and religious leaders. We have interacted with them and we have had a lot of discussions with them on how to mitigate that and a lot has been done already”.

Bello stressed that a lot of work was ongoing to sensitize the people about stigma and discrimination.

“Even last week we talked to the public about the danger of stigmatization. Training and sensitization has been done. We have the the anti stigma law distributed so that people will know that if you have been stigmatized, we have a law backing you”.

She noted said that over eighty thousand person living with HIV have so hard been identified and placed on treatment in Nasarawa state. She also pointed out that Media engagement, engagement with traditional and religious leaders brought about the large number of identified persons.

On the issue prosecution of stigma offenders, she said nobody has been prosecuted yet due to interventions.

“Most of the time, they try to resolve the issue by telling you that someone has intervened”.

On arrival at one of the treatment centres, a Consultant Medical Microbiologist and the Anti Retroviral Therapy Coordinator, Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital, Lafiya, Dr Esther Solomon Audu, who took the crew on a tour of how the centre works, said that the hospital is a comprehensive HIV facility. She said that the hospital serves as a hub for the care and treatment of HIV.

“Our centre is a comprehensive centre for for the care and treatment of HIV. And what I mean by is it means every activity, ranging from testing to treatment takes place in our facility. And currently we have an active number of patients. Over five thousand. As at May, over five thousand two hundred and something patients on treatment, active. And we serve as a hub. When I say huh, it means that we are a big centre that provides support and services to smaller centres including general hospitals, primary healthcare centres and private healthcare facilities. And because we are a comprehensive centre, we offer all the specialised care like pediatric ART and PMCTC and of course adult ART for adults that come to the facility”.

Dr Audu informed that when persons come in voluntarily or through provider initiated testing at the various service provision points in the hospital, they are tested at the over ten testing points in the hospital, when they are found to be positive, we enroll them for care.

“We have over ten testing points in the hospital. At different wards, units and service delivery areas where people are tested and when they are found to be positive, then they are sent to the HIV treatment centre where we provide comprehensive counseling, ore and post test counselling and then we enroll them for care, where we register them and then the doctors see them make diagnosis of whatever is ailing them other than the HIV diagnosis, they may be coming with some problems, opportunistic infections, they are given appropriate diagnosis, given

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