Governments should take over HIV/AIDS response – NACA
The National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), over the weekend, called on the three tiers of government to participate more and take ownership of HIV/AIDS response in the country.
The director-general of NACA, Dr Gambo Aliyu, made the call at the ongoing four-day HIV media advocacy and Social Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) skills building workshop in Yenagoa.
The training, which draws participants from medical experts in HIV/AIDS and journalists focuses on HIV, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and HIV Self-Testing.
Aliyu who was represented by the director, Policy Planning and Stakeholders Coordination, Dr Eno Essien, noted that people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHIV) were solely supported by donor agencies.
He said that the increased participation by the government was desirable to ensure that beneficiaries of the services rendered by the implementing partners are sustained when the donor partners pull out.
He urged states in the South-South geopolitical zone to take advantage of the support by the implementing partners to treat HIV patients for the region to be free of the epidemic.
Aliyu stated that the PLWHIV needed support and care and the federal and state governments should critically look into their plight for sustainability.
He explained that, some states in the region, like Bayelsa, were yet to fully implement the law establishing the State Agency for Control of Aids (SACA) while some require amendment to allow for proper functioning of the board.
The NACA boss noted that saca ought to report to the governor through the deputy governor and not to the ministry of health.
He called on the Bayelsa state government to comply with existing legislation by confirming the appointment of a director-general for SACA in Bayelsa state as well as release appropriated funds for HIV/AIDS activities including provision of rapid testing kits.
Dr Gloria Diri, the wife of the Bayelsa state governor, who represented her husband, declared open the workshop, emphasising the need for aggressive HIV advocacy by the media to reduce HIV/AIDS prevalence in Bayelsa state.
She commended NACA for bringing the workshop to the state and assured it would continue to provide a conducive environment.
She assured that the state government would ensure the completion of the permanent office of the Bayelsa State Agency for the Control AIDS (BYSACA) to provide a conducive environment in rendering services to HIV positive persons in the state.
Speaking at the event, Dr Uduak Daniel, South-South coordinator, NACA, noted that the six states in the region had high prevalence of HIV.
The development, she said, necessitated collaboration with the media through the setting up of advocacy platforms as a strategy in the fight against the epidemic.
Daniel said that, on her assumption of duty, she undertook on-the-spot assessment of the offices of State Agency for the Control of AIDS (SACA), in the course of which she discovered challenges such as the operations not followed by laws constituting them, poor funding and non-release of budgetary allocations.
She noted that the need to build the capacity of journalists for them to effectively involve advocacy in their different media channels informed the organising of the workshop.
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Mr. Emmanuel Atuma, chief of party, John Hopkins Programme for International Education in Gynaecology and Obstetrics (JHPIEGO) maintained that the training programme was a capacity enhancement exercise geared toward consolidating the gains made so far in the control of HIV. He noted that the media was a powerful and veritable tool in the fight against the epidemic.
He said that strengthening media capacity would go a long way to bring about the desired change in behaviour which saw JHPIEGO introducing what it called ‘choice collaboration.’
The collaboration involves JHPIEGO and FHI-360, a non-governmental organisation working to bring about change towards reducing the HIV burden in the country.
By Kenechukwu Obiajuru, Yenagoa