Map of Benue State
By Nwachukwu joshua
In Benue state, Nigeria, there is an emotional upheaval, because the state government recently disclosed that over 1 million out of the 4.5 million populace, in the state have been infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
The Executive Secretary, Benue State Action on Control of AIDS (BESACA), Mrs. Grace Wende, while speaking at the training of media professional on HIV/AIDS , in a paper entitled “Basic facts on HIV/AIDS,” said that about 400,000 children living with the virus have been placed on antiretroviral drugs (ARV), adding that 708,640 adults are living with the disease.
Based on the statistics, about two out of five people in the state are carriers of the disease, with women having it more than men.
According to Mrs. Wende, the children carriers of the disease, who have the highest infection rate, were born with the disease. These children, according to her, got the disease from mothers who failed to go for ante-natal care at government-owned hospitals where their status could have been detected earlier.
“In Benue State, the number of adults infected with HIV/AIDS was 708,640, out of which 21,259 were new infections in 2011. In the same year, 17,139 women were found positive. The number of children requiring ARV was 398,888,” she said.
Mrs Wende cited the attitude of the people of the state to unprotected sex and the rising number of youths becoming homosexuals as factors responsible for the rise in the scourge.
To remedy this situation, the Commissioner for Information, Mr Comrad Wegba together with Mrs Wende, called for behavioural change among the people, urging them to stick to a partner and use condom.
PREVENTION IS THE BEST CURE
It is disappointing that AIDS so far has no cure but is inconceivable that with no vaccine for HIV there is not even an agreement among stake holders on how best to prevent its transmission three whole decades after the virus was identified. As such we should focus not only on trying to convince the world that risky and dangerous behaviour form part of an acceptable lifestyle, but rather should focus on risk avoidance.
If we truly want to get HIV to zero, we should realise that what has shown the potential to stop the epidemic is behaviour change strategies only, which is used in Uganda and (less famously) in Zimbabwe. Uganda- which has become Africa’s only success story in fighting AID- turned its epidemic around in the early 1990s with its ABC programme focusing on abstinence for the unmarried and ‘zero grazing’ for the rest. In Zimbabwe in the ten years to 2007 brought its HIV prevalence down from 27 per cent to 16 per cent- mainly, according to researches, through reductions in extramarital, commercial, and causal sexual relations.
CONDOM IS NO OPTION
Several billions of dollars have been spent in purchasing and distributing condoms all to no avail. The truth is that there can never be enough billions to ‘end’ an epidemic driven by the sexual ideology of the west. With no medical vaccine in sight,’ Museveni told the 15th international Conference(IAC), a social vaccine is needed’- a means of stopping the disease by changing people’s behaviour.
This is the safest and surest way of bringing HIV to zero. This should be the only option and not condom.