Monday, 16 November 2009

Danger Signal

The prevalent rate of HIV/AIDS in Karu local government area of Nasarawa State is now a source of worry to the authorities


By Emmanuel Afonne

Fear of the unknown is now the order of the day in Karu local government area of Nasarawa State. The reason is not far fetched. The high rate of HIV/AIDS infection among orphans and vulnerable children in the area is causing sleepless nights to community based health organisation operating in the state. The development has caused many people living in the area to be apprehensive of whom they date.

Latest findings show that many factors including extra-marital affairs, unprotected sex, alcoholism, absence of voluntary counselling and testing, VCT centres in the area among others contribute to this development. The infected have no adequate care and support. While some believe that the infection is as a result of “evil power”, others say it is a destiny that God has already planned for them.

Rufus Adeagbo, executive director of Adolescent Action Pact, AAP, a non governmental organisation, NGO, told this magazine that the outcome of research conducted among the people is scary. The research was conducted in a total 5,704 households in seven communities using a structured questionnaire. The communities include Ado, Masaka, Gwandara, Angwan-Doka, Gurku, One-man-village and Kodape. Adeagbo expressed fear that things could get out of hand if urgent intervention fails to come.

The need to strengthen the capacity of families to protect and care for orphans and other children made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS and raising awareness to create a supportive environment for children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS and other vulnerable children were proscribed as necessary ingredients needed to safeguard the future of these children. A 13-year old, Emeka Eze from Abia State tested positive to HIV after losing his parents in 2007. His case was worsened by inaccessibility to the anti retroviral drugs, ARV.
Investigation by this magazine revealed that the attitude of government officials, who are in charge of agencies fighting HIV/AIDS, is a major hindrance to the war against HIV/AIDS. It was alleged that officials of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, NACA, indulge in sharp practices which in turn denies the less privileged people living with the disease from accessing the ARVs. This might have informed the decision of the ministry of health to take over the treatment of people living with HIV/AIDS.

The treatment of the virus is becoming increasingly too expensive for the ordinary Nigerian affected with the disease. An Indian company, which was awarded a N2.5 billion contract for the manufacture of ARVs by the former minister of health, Professor Eyitayo Lambo has not delivered the drugs more than three years after the contract was awarded.
A total sum of $44 million has so far been released to the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR. This is the third highest amount to have been released to the committee. Another N95 million was also given to PEPFAR by the Global Fund for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and the expansion of mother-to-child treatment and prevention, yet the disease is still ravaging the country. Despite the funds alloted to Nigeria, the ARV drugs are not available for people living with HIV/AIDS, PLWHA in the country.

In 2006, only about 10 percent of HIV infected women and men had access to anti-retroviral therapy while seven percent of pregnant women received treatment to reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission prevention. This magazine gathered that N14.7 billion was alloted to NACA in 2006 for mother-to-child treatment. Mr. Simon Olawala, a HIV/AIDS positive patient told this magazine that the government has not made the ARV available to half of the population that needs it.
A source disclosed that when funds are released to the agency, overhead cost comes first before issues related to PLWHA cases are addressed. That was why the global fund canceled the over $200 million grant to Nigeria in 2006 for non-performance. HIV/AIDS epidemic has suddenly become an avenue for money making. Mallam Sanni Ado alleged that some state governments intentionally increased the number of those infected with the HIV/AIDS status to get grant from international donor agencies and from the federal government fund.

At a stakeholders workshop organised by AAP and other community based organisations in conjunction with Karu local government area, Cartier Simon Auta, associate director, medical services (community) of Global HIV/AIDS Initiative Nigeria, GHAIN, warned that the activities of sex workers should be curtailed. He maintained that the about 2,618 drinking outlets from Masaka to Mararaba Building Materials market and the 41 brothels, out of which 18 have residential sex workers, portend danger for the area in the nearest future if government allows such outlets to operate. Auta further stated that red- spot areas such as gay people in Mararaba popularly known as “yan daudo” a local name for homosexuals must be chased out of existence.

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