As the world marks the 35th annual World AIDS Day on Friday, December 1, 2023, DevComs Network has called on all stakeholders to renew their commitment to the global fight against HIV/AIDS and stand united in the pursuit of ending the epidemic within Nigeria’s borders.
Themed “Led communities lead”, this year’s World AIDS Day serves as a poignant reminder of the urgent need to address health disparities and work collectively to achieve the ambitious targets set forth by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
In the late 1990s and 2000s, Nigeria, recognising the gravity of the HIV/AIDS challenge, intensified its efforts to curb the spread of the virus by enhancing access to treatment, and eliminating stigma and discrimination associated with the disease.
These entailed initiatives of the Nigerian government in collaboration with various stakeholders on:
- Increased Testing and Awareness: The government should continuously scale up HIV testing and counselling services to reach more communities, emphasising the importance of early detection and treatment.
- Accessible Treatment: While there is commitment to ensuring that everyone living with HIV has access to life-saving antiretroviral therapy (ART) there is need for increased efforts to expand treatment centres and improve the availability of essential medications.
- Prevention Programmes: Continuous investment in comprehensive prevention programmes, including education campaigns, distribution of condoms, and support for high-risk populations, to reduce the number of new HIV infections is of utmost importance especially among the young generation of Nigerians, the GenZ and
- Community Engagement: Recognising the crucial role of communities in the fight against HIV/AIDS, involvement of communities, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Academia, Faith Based Organisations (FBOs) and Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the design and implementation of HIV/AIDS programmes should continue.
- Combating Stigma: The country should not relent in efforts to eliminate discrimination and stigmatisation associated with HIV/AIDS, dispelling myths and misconceptions with continuous public awareness campaigns to promote understanding and empathy towards those affected and affected by the virus.
In commemorating this year’s World AIDS Day, DevComs called on government officials, healthcare professionals, development partners, activists, and citizens to come together to participate in various events, including seminars, workshops, and awareness walks across the country.
The group urged all Nigerians to join hands in creating an inclusive and supportive environment for those affected by HIV/AIDS, emphasising the importance of unity in the fight against the global health challenge.
Mrs Omobonike Adebayo, DevComs Programme Officer, Communication, said: “We align with the Programme Coordinator for Henry Jackson Foundation Medical Research Institute (HJFMRI), Dooshima Uganden, who stated that it is important to focus on the key and Vulnerable Populations in the country and communications must begin to target these vulnerable groups.”
She called on all stakeholders to “stand resolute in their commitment to achieving the UNAIDS targets while ensuring a future free from the burden of HIV/AIDS for all citizens with targeted inclusiveness and to ensure that all individuals and families are covered wherever their locations”.