Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
Delta State Government has launched the HIV Self-Testing Programme with a vow to scale up all response measures for arresting the relatively high HIV prevalence rate in the state, which places Delta as being among the highest in the country.
The Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Chiedu Ebie, in an address at the occasion, reiterated the commitment of the Okowa administration to collaborative efforts and adoption of strategies that would reduce the rate of new HIV infection in the state and Nigeria.
While expressing optimism about the efforts being made by the state government in collaboration with other stakeholders, the SSG warned against complacency as much needed to be done to rid Delta of high HIV infection.
Quoting from a 2018 survey, he said that a total of 1.9 million Nigerians were living with the virus while the national prevalence rate stood at 1.4%.
“The Nigerian HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS) in 2018 gave as the most comprehensive and reliable results in recent times and the results established a baseline for understanding the epidemic in our country. The key finding from the NAIIS indicate that the National HIV prevalence is estimated at 1.4% with a total of 1.9 million persons living with the virus in Nigeria.”
Nevertheless, Ebie said that he was optimistic that the launch of the self-testing strategy would, due to its numerous benefits and ease of usage, “reinforce existing strategies and boost case-finding for HIV and AIDS in the state.”
He further said that it was gratifying to note that Delta State had “successfully progressed from approximately 23,000 to 40,000 persons on treatment within 10 months and have achieved 90% viral suppression.
This is a feat worthy of commendation.”
Ebie itemised the benefits of the self-testing services thus, “It has enormous benefits which include the availability of testing to hard-to-reach clients; reduction in stigmatisation; enhanced accessibility; convenience and ease of use; guaranteed confidentiality; painlessness as there is no needle pricking; self-application; time-saving as clients do not need to visit the hospital or laboratory for testing, and results are available within 20 minutes.”
Dr. John Osuyali, Executive Secretary, Delta State Agency for the Control of AIDS, had made a detailed presentation on the activities of the agency dating back to the establishment of SACA in 2005, stressing that much progress had been made towards making Delta HIV free in 10 years from now.
However, Project Director of FASTER, Dr. Emeka Anoje, expressed worry that a large percentage of people in Delta State, like most other states in the country did not know their HIV status, noting that the self-testing kits was an effective means of case finding, which should be embraced by the people to know their HIV status as well as to stay safe from infection as possible.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Delta State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Mordi Ononye, noted that current statistical figures indicated that over 1.9 million persons were living with HIV but emphasised that the government was taking all the necessary steps to curb the pandemic.
Ononye, who urged the people to adhere to prescribed preventive measures including avoid casual and unprotected sex, advised the people to regularly know their HIV status and not take the virus for granted.