The National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), on Friday called on the three tiers of government to participate more and take ownership in HIV/AIDS response in the country.
The Director-General of NACA, Dr Gambo Aliyu, made the call at the ongoing 4-Day HIV Media Advocacy and Social Behaviour Change Communication(SBCC) Skills Building Workshop in Yenagoa.
The training which draws participants from medical experts in HIV/AIDS and journalists focuses on HIV, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and HIV Self Testing.
Aliyu who was represented by the Director, Policy Planning and Stakeholders Coordination ,Dr Eno Essien noted that People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHIV) are solely supported by donour agencies.
He said that the increased participation by the government was desirable to ensure that beneficiaries of the services rendered by the implementing partners are sustained when the donor partners pull out.
He urged states in the South-South geopolitical zone to take advantage of the support by the implementing partners to treat HIV infected persons for the region to be free of the epidemic.
Aliyu stated that the PLWHIV need support and care and the federal and state governments should critically look into their plight for sustainability.
He explained that in some states in the region like Bayelsa, were yet to fully implement the law establishing the State Agency for Control of Aids (SACA) while some require amendment to allow for proper functioning of the board.
The NACA boss noted that SACA ought to report to the Governor through the Deputy Governor and not to the Ministry of Health.
He called on Bayelsa government to comply to existing legislation by confirming appointment of Director-General for SACA in Bayelsa as well as release appropriated funds for HIV/AIDS activities including provision of rapid testing kits..
Dr. Gloria Diri, wife of Bayelsa State Governor Douye Diri, who declared open the workshop, emphasised the need for aggressive HIV advocacy by the media to reduce HIV/AIDS prevalence in Bayelsa.
She commended NACA for bringing the workshop to Bayelsa and assured that the state would continue to provide a conducive environment.
She assured that the state government will ensure the completion of the permanent office of the Bayelsa State Agency for the Control AIDS (BYSACA) to provide a conducive environment in rendering services to HIV positive persons in the state.
Speaking at the event, Dr Uduak Daniel, South-South Coordinator, NACA, noted that the six states in the region have high HIV prevalence.
The development, she said, necessitates the need to collaborate with the media through the setting up of advocacy platforms as a strategy in the fight against the epidemic.
Daniel said on her assumption, she immediately swung into action and embarked on the spot assessment of the offices of State Agency for the Control of AIDS (SACA).
She discovered challenges facing the offices such as the operations not followed by laws constituting them, issue of poor funding and non release of budgetary funds.
She noted that the need to build the capacity of journalists for them to effectively involve advocacy in their different media channels informed the organizing of the workshop.
Daniel said that in appreciation of the contributions of stakeholders in the HIV/AIDS campaign, the zonal office of NACA will hold an award ceremony to recognize prospective stakeholders’ efforts.
Mr. Emmanuel Atuma, Chief of Party, John Hopkins Program for International Education in Gynaecology and Obstetrics (JHPIEGO) maintained that the training programme was very essential.
He explained that the capacity enhancement exercise will consolidate the gains made so far in the control of HIV , noting that the media was a powerful and veritable tool in the fight against the epidemic.
He said that strengthening media capacity would go a long way to bring about the desired change in behaviour which saw JHPIEGO introducing what is called: “ Choice Collaboration”.
The collaboration involves JHPIEGO and FHI-360, a NON Governmental Organisation working together to bring about the needed required change towards reducing HIV burden.