Since the debilitating economic hardship hit the nation, dozens of persons living with HIV/AIDs had died daily, but unreported, especially in remote communities, villages and hamlets where stigmatization was still high, while those who have seemingly lost hope in the battle for survival now literally await death.
A drastic cut in funding, particularly from international donor agencies and epileptic inputs from the states and Federal Government on drugs, supplements and other vital items needed for the support and sustenance of persons infected with the deadly Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) across the country, has placed the lives of millions of citizens on the balance.
Abdulkadir Abubakar, Project and Monitoring Officer, Kwara State Action Committee for the Control of Aids (KWASACA), confirmed the gale of deaths, adding that with families not reporting the causes of death in some communities, with others dying at home, agencies saddled with the responsibility of HIV/AIDS management and control had been unable to gather adequate statistics on the ratio of death of the male, female and children.
However, Nusiratu Ahmed, a 34-year-old victim resident in Kwara State, adduced reasons for the current situation:“The cost and non-availability of the drugs especially, to poor people, is responsible for the high number of deaths of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA)”, she said in an exclusive chat with one of our correspondents, urging governments at all levels to intervene urgently by providing the requisite drugs at subsidized rates to reduce HIV/AIDS induced deaths silently sweeping across the country at the moment.
The Project Manager of Kogi State Agency for the Control of Aids (KOSACA), Dr Musa Gabriel, admitted that poverty is the major plight of HIV/AIDS victims in the country, as most of them neither feed properly before taking their drugs where available, nor have money to enable them access health facilities and receive drugs given to them free-of-charge.
Checks by our correspondents in Nasarawa, Benue, and Plateau States listed on the 4th, 8th and 19th positions respectively in the national prevalence chart, as well as other states in the North-central zone revealed an alarming, but subdued statistics of child and maternal mortality, with the states and federal authorities reeling out conflicting annual and bi-annual figures of victims, with most state governments keeping mum on the deaths occasioned in recent times by the deadly disease.
In Kwara State, Project Manager and Secretary, Kwara State AIDS Control Agency, Dr. Johnson Oyeniyi, disclosed that the state government had in the past six years committed N60 million to the fight against the dreaded HIV/AIDS, but expressed fears that the projected prevalence for HIV/AIDS for the state may rise to 2.8 percent of the 2.9 population, if active intervention does not commence now.
“We had expected that we would achieve three per cent prevalence rate on the average but now we have achieved 1.8 per cent. We are working with stakeholders to further reduce the prevalence of HIV/AIDS”, he emphasized.
Speaking on her plight, one of the people living with the disease in Kwara State, Nusiratu Ahmed said initially, she was stigmatized by her relations when diagnosed as being HIV positive because many of them started regarding her as promiscuous.
She confessed the situation had made her almost end her life by suicide, but with education and enlightenment, her people now assist and encouraging her to make sure she survived.
Gbenga Adeyi, a driver said when he was told of his status, it was as if he had received his death warrant, but with proper counseling and adherence to instructions from hospitals, he is living a normal life.
He said apart from his wife, no other person knew of his HIV/AIDS status as many would have taunted him at the slightest opportunity. But he said he has learnt a lot on the causes, symptoms and prevention of HIV, which he is also using in counseling people not presently.
Few years ago, issues relating to AIDS in Kogi State were despicably scary and frightening. The mere mention of the dreaded disease was enough to sink one’s heart; every sick person, especially those with considerable loss of physique and strength, were considered as having contracted the disease.
In 2001, when the trend of HIV/AIDS epidemic in Kogi State was high, the prevalence rate was put at 5.7 percent, but in subsequent years, it gradually reduced to 5.5 percent in 2005, and 5.1 percent in 2008. However in2010, it rose to a frightening 5.8 percent, until it was gradually reduced to 1.4 percent in 2012, a figure the state government had claimed in the prevalence rating till date.
Since 2001, a total number of 36,953 persons were cumulatively enrolled in the state as people living with HIV and receiving HIV care with 24,849 being female, representing 67.3 per cent, while 32.7 per cent are male.
Statistics at the Kogi State Agency for the Control of AIDS (KOSACA), indicated that of the 913, 679 women of reproductive age recorded, 22.7 per cent were pregnant, with 446 out of 775 testing positive between January and December, 2015.
Speaking with a correspondent, the project manager of KOSACA, Dr Musa Gabriel who declined to give the numbers of deaths so far recorded within the last five years including the numbers of orphaned children however, said there was a sharp drop of cases recorded in the state.
Dr Musa said though the state currently has 34 comprehensive health sites and 270 feeder sites where patients could get drugs or counseling, he regretted that the state has fewer CD4 machines which he said are used to initiate patients to know whether they could start treatment or not.
He disclosed that since the programme was donor-driven and mainly funded by World Bank in partnership with other agencies, the KOSACA contends with the issue of inadequate funding as the state merely contributes only about five per cent in terms of counterpart funding.
A correspondent spoke with few of the patients at the Federal Medical Centre, Lokoja, where they came for treatment, though most of them were reluctant in responding to questions put to them, even as they declined taking their photographs.
Mrs Awwal Danladi, 27, a nursing mother who had been living with the disease since last year, said she tested positive to HIV during one of her ante natal sessions. “Well, I thank Allah for the early discovery of this disease, because this enabled the medical people to quickly rally round me and devised a means whereby my son was not affected too,” she revealed.
She said apart from her husband who is also positive, nobody actually knew in the family that she is positive except on days when she joined other victims on queue at the hospital to receive drugs.
For Bimbola, (surname withheld), a 23-year -old student of Kogi Polytechnic, Lokoja, she says, “honestly, this disease is terrible and it could be more harrowing if your friends and neighbours discover you are having it; most times, I feel so much inferior in the midst of my friends and that makes me not to associate freely. I felt like committing suicide when I tested positive in 2013 and all kinds of negative thoughts came all over me, but with counseling and sermons from men of God, I made up my mind that I would not die now but live, and God has been helping me live positively with it.
“Initially, I faced discrimination from my family members who knew I am infected; as for friends, I doubt if anyone really knew, but I tell you, I always nursed self pity and guilt and this made me to discriminate against myself before anybody discriminates against me. But my life is in the hands of God, and so I must trudge on.”
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