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Water, sanitation, hygiene essential in fight against HIV/AIDS – WaterAid

In commemoration of the World AIDS Day on Thursday, December 1, 2016, WaterAid has restated that safe water, improved sanitation and good hygiene (WASH) are essential for ensuring that people living with HIV (PLHIV) live healthy and productive lives.

Dr Michael Ojo, Country Director, WaterAid Nigeria
Dr Michael Ojo, Country Director, WaterAid Nigeria

According to the UK-based international organisation, easy access to safe and sufficient water and sanitation is indispensable for people living with HIV and AIDS and for the provision of home-based care to AIDS patients.

The group adds that safe drinking water is necessary for taking medicines, while nearby latrines make life more tolerable for weak patients. It notes that water is also needed for bathing patients, washing soiled clothing and linen, keeping the house environment and latrine clean in order to reduce the risk of opportunistic infections. Safe and adequate water and sanitation provision increases the dignity of both patients and caregivers, it further stresses.

WaterAid Nigeria, in a statement issued on Wednesday, November 30, submits: “People living with HIV are more susceptible to WASH-related illnesses such as typhoid and skin diseases. People living with HIV are also six times more likely to acquire a diarrhoeal disease with 90% of people living with HIV experiencing diarrhoea at least once. In addition, babies born to mothers living with HIV are three times more likely to have diarrhoea.

“People living with HIV need 2 ½ times the amount of water than someone not living with the virus, and also need improved hygiene and sanitation to help prevent opportunistic infections by keeping the environment of the house and toilet clean. An adequate supply of water is essential for home-based care of PLHIV. Diarrhoea and other opportunistic infections also lead to depleted energy levels, resulting in the need for close and easily accessible toilet facilities and water for handwashing.”

WaterAid Nigeria’s Communication and Campaigns Manager, Oluseyi Abdulmalik, was quoted in the statement as saying: “Without sufficient clean water, sanitation and proper hygiene, people living with HIV will be more ill more often, and less able to live healthy and productive lives. At WaterAid, we advocate for the integration of water, sanitation and hygiene into HIV services and the fight against AIDS. Interventions around universal health coverage must include environmental factors such as water, basic toilets and good hygiene promotion within households. For people living with HIV, this would help to prevent opportunistic infections and enable healthier, more productive lives.”

In the statement, which Abdulmalik endorsed, WaterAid stresses: “Today is World AIDS Day and, at WaterAid, we believe that water, sanitation and hygiene are critical to both disease prevention and care.

“While our focus as on organisation is on Sustainable Development Goal 6 and on everyone everywhere having access to safe water and sanitation, on World AIDS Day we are also reflecting on Goal 3 (health and wellbeing) and in particular on the target of ending the global AIDS epidemic by 2030.

“This means full access to health services for all, delivered with dignity and respect. It also means adolescent girls, women, boys and men having access to appropriate HIV and sexual and reproductive health information and services, and it means every child being born free from HIV by 2030. WaterAid’s global advocacy priority, our Healthy Start campaign also focuses on the good health of babies and of their mothers.

“Today reminds us that the Sustainable Development Goals are interconnected and that the eradication of extreme poverty depends on all 17 global goals. This is why one of our strategic aims focuses on integration – working together across sectors and across goals. Clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene practice are crucial in helping us all to stay healthy, minimising the risk of infection and for the taking of retroviral drugs. Nigeria carries the second heaviest burden of HIV in Africa and the highest in West Africa.”

According to Abdulmalik, WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene, adding that the international organisation works in 37 countries across Africa, Asia, Central America and the Pacific Region to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world’s poorest communities.

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