WORLD AIDS DAY - December 1st 2015 AT ACHINGALI OBOWO

Despite all the progress made towards the fight against HIV/AIDS, a lot of misinformation and poor awareness still surround the epidemic. Every December 1st the global community marks World AIDS Day. It is a day that is used to unite individuals and communities in the fight against HIV, identified in 1984 to show support for people living with HIV and remember those who have died of this virus. HIV/AIDS has continued as one of the world's greatest health challenges especially in poor, low and middle income countries. The WHO, UNICEF, and UNAIDS in thier 2015 AIDS data report that globally about 36.9 million are living with HIV including 2.6 million children. An estimated 2 million were infected in 2014, an estimated 34 million people have died from HIV or AIDS including 1.2 in 2014. Sub Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence, girls account for 7 in 10 new infections among those aged 15-19. Tragically, despite widespread availability of HIV testing, only an estimated 51 percent of people with HIV know their status. Nigeria is second to South Africa in the number of new infections every year in the world.

Stigmatization and discrimination abound in many places particularly in Africa creating fear and making it difficult for people to get tested, disclose their HIV status and take antiretroviral drugs. This means that more people are diagnosed late, when the virus may have already progressed to AIDS. This makes the fight against HIV/AIDS a very difficult one as it makes treatment less effective, increasing the likelihood of transmitting HIV to others, and thus causing early death. This epidemic of fear, stigmatization and discrimination have undermined the capability of individuals, families and communities to protect themselves and provide support and encouragement to those affected. In this fight, each of us can contribute to realizing a HIV free culture and world by ending prejudice, negative attitudes and abuse directed against people living with HIV/AIDS, their families and those who care for them.

Family members, peers and wider community especially healthcare and education settings must cease to shun and treating PLWHA as if they had lower humanity. The International community has in its new sustainable development Goals adopted last September set target to end AIDS epidemic by 2030. In order that this might be possible, we must reach key affected populations, such groups that are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. No one should be left behind if we were to achieve an HIV free world. Our experience is that most community health workers lack the basic skills needed to relate with PLWHA and the families and as such scare them away for health facilities and when they make in -home visits. To support the fight against stigma and discrimination in healthcare settings, and increase the competence of community health workers, SAID gathered 102 community health care workers in Obowo LGA for a panel discussion on effective care for PLWHA and rounded off the DAY with a campaign at Achingali market Ikenanzizi. Dr Fidelis Chikwem SAID- Programme Director,

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