For more than a decade, December 1st of every year has been dedicated to campaign against the spread of HIV/AIDS. It is one initiative that has helped curb all forms of societal discrimination against the People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). Not only that, this campaign day was actually chosen as part of the United Nation’s strategies to contain the spread of the dreadful disease across the globe.
In Africa, which is my focus for this article can still boast of the population of about 15.2 percent of the world’s population, Sub-Saharan Africa alone accounted for an estimated 70 percent of all people living with HIV and 70 percent of all AIDS deaths in 2011.
Countries in North Africa and the Horn of Africa have significantly lower prevalence rates, as their populations typically engage in fewer high-risk cultural patterns that have been implicated in the virus’s spread in Sub-Saharan Africa. Southern Africa is the worst affected region on the continent.
In early 2000s in South Africa there were reports of prevalent rape cases which came about as result of the popular myth in South Africa back then which says “sex a virgin and become HIV negative”. That is, if you have been tested positive to HIV, and you are able to have sexual intercourse with a virgin, then you status would automatically change from positive to negative.
This horrible myth made significant number of under rage girls suffered sexual assaults. Most of those innocent victims equally contracted the virus in the process. Hence the increase in the prevalence rates of PLWHA in South Africa up until 2011, when the percentage of PLWHA had been reportedly dropped to 2.1 percent.
In Nigeria however, the story has not been very much different either. Only that we Nigerians did not join South African counterparts in the wild goose chase of raping under age girls so as to be HIV free, which I still believe till today, is just a ploy to child abuse. Nigeria being the most populous black nation in the world was ranked second amongst the countries with highest numbers of PLWHA in 2010.
By 2012, Reports on HIV/AIDs in Nigeria confirmed the HIV prevalence rate among adults ages 15–49 was put between 3.1 percent – 3.2 percent. This reduction wouldn’t have been possible if there were no structure in place by Federal MInistry of Health and the consistent support from international Donor agencies such USAID, WHO, Ghain amongst others.
The National Agency for the Control of AIDS (formerly National Action Committee on AIDS) (NACA) is another structure established by Federal Government of Nigeria in February 2000 to coordinate the various activities of HIV/AIDS in the country. As one government agency, NACA has been taking the lead in the fight against spread of HIV/AIDs through its numerous programmes, periodic campaigns and steady advocacy with positive results since its inception. Some of NACA mandates are to:
-Coordinate and sustain advocacy by all sectors and at all levels for HIV/AIDS/STDs Expanded Responses in Nigeria;
- Develop the framework for collaboration and support from all stakeholders for a multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary response to HIV/AIDS in Nigeria;
– Develop and present to the. Presidential Council on AIDS, PCA, all plans on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria for policy decisions;
-Develop and articulate a strategic plan for an Expanded National Response to HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.
NACA has in 2014 tagged its campaign against HIV/AIDS “Zero Stigmatisation and Discrimination”. This year campaign is in collaboration with UNAIDS. The campaign would help correct and even put an end to all forms of discrimination against PLWHA in Nigeria.