Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom has said that about 184,745 persons are still infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in the state, even as the prevalence rate according to the 2018 Nigeria HIV/AIDs Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS) dropped from 14.1 percent to 4.9 percent. Ortom, who was represented by the Commissioner for Health and Human Services, Dr. Sunday Ongbabo, at the commemoration of the World AIDs Day, also revealed that out of the figure, only 142,873 were on antiretroviral therapy (ART).
The governor, who vowed that no stone would be left unturned to curb HIV/AIDs epidemic in Benue, lauded communities in the state for being in the fore-front of the fight against social injustice, stigma and discrimination, as well as all forms of practices that restrict access to life-saving services for People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).
He said, “I am really impressed with the active participation of communities to mitigate the impact and spread of HIV/AIDs on the citizens. That is why the 2019 theme of ‘Community Make the Difference’ is apt because the communities have really made the difference.”
The Chairman, House Committee on Health, Okponya Okpaga (representing Oju Constituency), said the 9th assembly was committed to ensuring that the HIV pandemic was totally eradicated.“I want to assure you that HIV must remain on the political agenda of the state assembly till the pandemic is totally eradicated. All barriers to community network shall be removed by the help of the assembly,” He added.
Earlier, the executive secretary, Benue State AIDS Control Agency (BENSACA), Gideon Dura, explained that the celebration reminded the state and the nation of the presence of the pandemic, which ravaged communities worldwide.He explained that the 2019 theme ‘Communities Make the Difference’ was tactically chosen to recognise the essential role communities had played and continued to play in the AIDS response at all levels.
“Communities have contributed to the AIDS response in many different ways. Their leadership and advocacy have ensured that the response remains relevant and grounded, keeping people at the centre and leaving no one behind,” he said.