NACA seeks more government participation in HIV/AIDS response – By Chukwudi Ejimofor, PH

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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