NGO vows to reduce HIV/AIDS epidemic in Abia, South East

Ogbonnaya Ikokwu, Umuahia
A non Governmental organization known as Caritas Nigeria has vowed to reduce the epidemic spread of the Human Immuno Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in Abia, Enugu and Imo states.
The executive secretary/ chief executive officer of the organization Rev. Fr. Uchechukwu Obodoechina, 
accounced this during the official launching of the Accelerated Control of HIV, epidemic and sustainable solution project (Access project) in Umuahia the Abia State capital.
He explained that the Access projects is targeted at reaching all the people infected with HIV with the sole aim of giving free diagnosis and treatment to them.
Obodoechina, further revealed that his organization has the mandate of the American Centre for Disease 
Control and prevention to under take the projects for five years in the states under review.
He said, “We have a grant from the American government and its people to obtain services in Abia State and other parts of the South East Nigeria with a view to achieving epidemic control against HIV/AIDS and today we are in Abia collaborating with the state and other sectors to see how we could engage with them in the fight against HIV/AIDS”.
“The Government of Nigeria and Abia state should also rise up because her responsibility to ensure that her citizens are healthy. That’s the essence of government.  Government is established to do for the people what they can’t do for themselves. That is the content of the social contract.
“It’s important to realize that when the Government does her work, its has perform her duty. It’s not a charity but responsibility”.
The project director in Abia State 
Dr Amana Effiong, said the project is particularly targeted at people living with HIV/AIDS in some parts of the State who were not reached by the previous exercise of the organization known as 4GATES project.
He maintained that whereas some states in the South East has achieved epidemic control of the HIV disease, Abia State was still lacking behind because of some historical factors.
According to him, “Abia is still one of the states with the highest number of people living with HIV without access to treatment, we have a mandate to find as many people as possible and place them on anti-retroviral treatment.
“Some key population that suffered seriously from this, is the paediatric
and adult population in certain region of the states with hard to reach areas in  Abia North Senatorial district.
“We are trying to use different strategies to reach out to them and place them on treatment so that they can live a normal life. This project will also truncate the transmission of HIV to other persons.
“Currently many of the states in Nigeria has achieved epidemic control and treatment but this is not the case in Abia State. Caritas Nigeria has received a mandate to ensure that we achieve treatment saturation in the state. We have been working here for a year and half and we have made significant progress but there’s a lot of work to be done”.
Dr John okpanachi oko, the Chief of party, Access projects, identified stigma against people living with HIV/ ADIS as the only challenge faced by the organization in her previous projects in the state.
He said, “What we are doing is to officially lunch the new HIV prevention project starting with Abia State.
“It’s a five year Grant from the American centre for disease control and prevention that will be implemented in Abia, Enugu and Imo states. it’s a comprehensive HIV prevention and treatment projects. 
“We will be working with other partners to ensure that we reach out to many people living with HIV and put them on treatment and ensure that their viral load is surpressed in the next five years.
“We are trying to work with community people to reduce stima against those living with HIV. That will encourage people to come out and get tested and start their treatment, because stigma is a major challenge that we face.
“We are hoping that the plans to enlarge public enlighten and engagement of community leaders, religious leaders and the laws by  States government against stigma, will go a long way to reduce it and encourage people to access testing and treatment”. 
The permanent secretary ministry of health in the state Deaconess Frankca Ekwueme, urged those living with the HIV disease to always make themselves available for treatment, adding that the disease can be managed like any other sickness.
She also warned against stigma on people living with the disease, pointing out that HIV is no longer killers disease.
Her words,”The caritas group have done well in Abia State for sometime now, their business is to achieve the epidemic control of the HIV/ADIS disease, we have had many intervention from different groups, but when they came, they changed the game and what made people to know who a game changer is results and evidence.
“When they came the number of people living with HIV were many and said they were going to control it and they have done that.  They go to local communities working with our doctors in the ministry of health to give medical care to the people of the state.
“They have been able to achieve 72 percent epidemic control of the disease in the state. I want Abians to know that HIV is no longer a killer diseacese, an infected person will die, if he/she does nothing about it.
“But there’s no need to stimatize
people living with the disease and those living with the disease should not conclude that their own have ended because the disease can be managed like every other sickness”.