By Solomon Attah,
Lafia

A 5-day workshop on 2020 Annual Operational Plan (AOP) Review and 2021 Development for HIV Health Sectorial Response was organized by the Nasarawa State Government ended weekend with a commitment to reducing the prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS to a zero level in the state.

The workshop which took place at Akwanga, the headquarters of Akwanga Local Government Area of the state, brought key stakeholders in the fight against the scourge, who discoursed and developed a template how the state can achieve the global targets of eliminating HIV/AIDS by 2030.

The participants at the 2021 AOP workshop were drawn from the State Ministry of Health, State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NSPHDA), Nasarawa State AIDS Control Agency (NASACA), and Hospital Management Board and supported by Achieving Health Nigeria Initiative (AHNi), as well as other implementing partners such as CHAI, CRS, IHVN and AHF, NEPWHAN, APYIN.

The workshop was among other things sought for more bilateral synergy among the key actors in the Health sector to achieve the state government targets by 2030.

Declaring the 5-day workshop open, the State Commissioner of Health, Ahmed Baba Yahaya said the state government has already set in motion mechanism seriously targeting to reducing the prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS to Zero level in the state.

The health commissioner who commended the efforts of implementing partners and other donor agencies, was optimistic that, with the consistent partnership, the target of the state to eliminate the epidemic is achievable.

He also commended the FHI360 leadership and coordination and AHNi for optimizing HIV impact in the state and urged the state health team to intensify fight against the scourge.

The State Coordinator, AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections Control Programme (SASCP), Peter Attah called for more governments support to the programme for its sustenance beyond the donor funding.

He said that efforts of the team had yielded great results in reducing the prevalence rate of the disease from 8.3% in 2015 to as low as 2% in 2018 (NAIIS) in the state.

He added that as at June 2020, no fewer than 49,755 people were living with HIV and receiving treatments in various health facilities across the state with over 20,000 more still living with the disease yet to be identified and place on treatment.

According to Attah, HIV/AIDS is still a huge challenge in the state, noting funding and manpower as the major impediment in the state.

Commenting, the Director Public Health in the Ministry of Health, Ibrahim Adamu Alhassan explained the objective of the workshop was to review program performance in 2020 with the view to improving in the 2021 operational plan.

We are here to document successes, challenges and lessons learnt as well as to develop a 2021 HIV/AIDS Annual Operational Plan of the State that is realistic, cost effective and implementable based on available resources that will make it achievable, he said.

One of the facilitators at the workshop Ishaku Bako, said if stigmatization against victims was eliminated, it would encourage those with the condition to avail themselves for testing and treatment.

One of the ways to stop the spread of HIV is for everybody who is yet to ascertain his/her status to avail himself/herself for testing and those found positive be placed on treatment and those on treatment to adhere to it.

Efforts must be made to ensure that all pregnant women who attend antenatal care are deliver in the facilities in order to prevent HIV infection through prevention of mother-to-child transmission, he added.

Bako also commended the state Ministry of Health and NASACA for providing an enabling environment for the success achieved in the state HIV response in the finishing year despite the COVID 19 pandemic.

The State Coordinator, Network of People Living with HIV, Philp Lokoko commended the government and other development partners for assisting them living a normal life in spite their status.

He however, decried the level of stigmatization by medical personnel as a serious impediment to achieving the state target, saying many sufferers were shying away from testing and receiving treatment as result of that.

Lokoko appealed to the public to desist any form of discrimination, if the spread of HIV/AIDS must be curtailed, even as he solicited for more support and funding of HIV/AIDS program in the state

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