Know Your Status and Help End HIV

 

This year marks 30 years since World AIDS Day began. SAID Nigeria joins the International community in celebrating this day as we stand in solidarity with those living with HIV/AIDS and their families. We honour and salute those who have worked in research and care of those living with is challenging virus.

Each World AIDS Day offers us an opportunity to take stock and see what we still must do. Each year, it gives us a reality check.

The theme for this year is “Know Your Status”. HIV testing is essential for expanding treatment and achieving the 90-90-90 Targets. UNAIDS estimates that more than 9.4 million people living with HIV still do not know their status.

Community Action Group (CAG) work between the health facilities and homes of children, adolescents and young people living with HIV with the goal of improving outcomes across the HIV care cascade.

The work SAID Nigeria does with people living with HIV and their families falls under our Health and Wellbeing Program. Four hundred and eighty persons living with HIV have been beneficiaries of SAID Nigeria micro credit for enterprise development and management since 2015.

A couple of months back. James walked into our office in Owerri, looking downcast and helpless. Later, we were to hear that he had been directed by someone from a community where SAID Nigeria had conducted know you HIV status advocacy. He narrated the seemingly helpless situation of his only sister who had become isolated and now stay indoors all day where her body system continues to break down. They were suspecting HIV but afraid of going for HIV test.

After hearing this story, we visited them the following day and were able to convince the sister to follow us for a HIV test. As they had thought, she was HIV positive and immediately referred to Umuguma HIV referral center. She was immediately put on anti-retroviral treatment- HAART –Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Treatment.

This is only one case among many of such cases that SAID Nigeria’s intervention have given another chance to live, they now receive antiretroviral therapy.

For each one who is discovered, treatment has the potential to save their lives - by maintaining or regaining their physical health. It can also enable viral suppression, when the level of HIV in their bodies becomes undetectable - meaning that they cannot transmit the virus to others.

Today, there are treatments that can protect a HIV negative person from being infected. The tablet prescribed for prevention of HIV is Truvada, a combination of two different antiviral substances that are often included in the treatment of people with HIV. With this combination, one can also prevent a HIV negative person from getting HIV. Truvada is the Pre-Expositions Profylax, PrEP used in the USA and many European countries. This tablet is so expensive that only the very rich can afford it in poor countries. This could be expedient for promiscuous people- that is those who have sex with many partners.

Notwithsatnding the progress made in the prevention, treatment and care of HIV, recent reports show that worldwide, 25% of people living with HIV still do not know they have the virus. About 41% of people lack access to treatment and 53% (19.4 million people) are yet to achieve viral suppression.

Despite advances in the treatment of HIV and the ‘leave no one behind’ promise of the international framework on sustainable development adopted in 2015 – AIDS is far from over and neither is the need for people living with HIV to have good health and wellbeing.

There is a growing awareness that as the response to AIDS continues into its fourth decade, the work of organizations working to end this epidemic should not just focus on prolonging the lives of people living with HIV. It should as well ensure that those living with HIV/AIDS have health, joyful and fulfilled lives. This is impossible as long as people living with HIV/AIDS are stigmatized and discriminated among family members, friends, communities and colleagues at work.

Please join us in this fight for a world free from HIV.

Ikem Okafor

SAID Nigeria

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