The National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) has commenced a four-day free medical screening programme consisting of HIV Counseling and Testing (HCT), test for diabetes, hypertension and malaria as well as deworming for children in Shomolu Local Government Area of Lagos State.
Over 5,000 residents of Shomolu are expected to benefit from this four-day free medical care programme slated to run from Monday, December 14 till today at strategic locations within the Shomolu Local Government Area.
Speaking at the flag-off of the programme at Olaleye Market, Shomolu, the Principal Programme Officer of NACA, Mrs. Ronke Adeoye noted that the HCT outreach campaign is geared towards making residents to know their HIV status through counseling testing and help achieve the 2030 goal of zero new infection, zero discrimination against people living with HIV as well as zero AIDS related death.
Said she , “this programme is organized by NACA and MDG; the whole essence is to get people tested and to know their HIV/AIDS status. We found out that people will not ordinarily go to the clinic for testing, so we thought it wise that it is better to bring the testing to their doorstep; as a result of this, we have sensitized the people and the community to come out for testing”.
Adeoye stated that residents will also be opportuned to do blood pressure test, blood sugar test and malaria test in addition to HIV counseling and testing adding that children will also have the opportunity to be dewormed while people also have access to free medications.
“This outreach is very important because as a nation, we want to get to zero level by 2030; which means that by 2030 we want to have zero new infection, zero discrimination against people living with HIV as well as zero AIDS related deaths”, the programme officer said.
She expressed optimism that the 2030 target is possible if only people can come out and know their status stressing that the only way this can be done is through counseling and testing.
“This is why we have brought the HIV counseling and testing to their door-step in the community where the people reside to help them in the quest to get counseled and tested; it is our belief that if we do this, we will actually get to our target by 2030”, Adeoye said.
She noted that most important prevention against HIV/AIDS is for people to abstain from risky behaviours and use protection like condoms. She added that prevention-of-mother-to-child transmission of HIV is possible, stressing that pregnant women who are HIV-positive can actually give birth to HIV- negative children.
“This outreach is actually going on in other states and the Federal Capital Territory including 12 states that are HIV- positive endemic states; the essence is to make people come out to get tested; that is why we are taking the campaign to them”.
“We do not want a situation where people will be down with the sickness before they go to the hospital; we want to forestall this scenario by bringing the service to their door-step and this is why we are using market spaces and bus-stops where people can easily access HCT services”, Adeoye noted.
Earlier, the State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, noted that HIV burden has gone down nationally, but stressed that the state government is still working assiduously to improve access to HCT activities.
Said he, “as a responsible government, it is our duty to ensure that we prevent our people from contacting HIV/AIDS and that is why we have started this programme with our national body; NACA, so that everybody will understand what HIV/AIDS is all about, how it is spread and how we can prevent ourselves from contacting it”.
The Commissioner noted however, there are behaviours that one can adopt to prevent HIV infection like the practice safe sex by abstaining, if not married; sticking to one faithful, uninfected partner if married and using condom appropriately if you must have casual sex.
He listed other preventive behaviours to include avoiding the use of unsterilized skin-piercing instruments, ensuring that only screened blood are transfused or received and infected mothers should seek advice before getting pregnant so that all steps will be taken to ensure that the baby is not infected.
Idris enjoined every pregnant woman to make sure that they undertake the test so that the health workers can help her protect the unborn baby from HIV infection noting that all government hospitals offers HIV counseling and testing services and some selected Primary Health Centres.
This story was published in Newswatch Times on December 17, 2015.