Sunday, December 3, 2017

16,000 living with HIV in Borno died ‘because of Boko Haram’

16,000 living with HIV in Borno died ‘because of Boko Haram’
December 03
14:06 2017
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The Borno chapter of the Network of Persons Living with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWAN), says more than 16, 000 members of the organisation have died in the past three years in Borno.

Speaking with journalists on Saturday, Hassan Mustapha, its chairman, explained that the victims died because of the activities of Boko Haram, which made it difficult for patients to access anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and other support services.

He said more than 27, 000 persons were registered for ART between 2011 and 2014, but lamented that the number has dropped to 11, 303 in 2017.

The chairman said the the vims also died due to the poor economic status of the persons living with the virus.

Mustapha said the reduction in the number of persons on ART was a clear indication that the persons were either dead or missing.

“Most of the ART centres were closed down due to Boko Haram insurgency, thereby making it difficult for our members to access treatment,” he said.

“Positive living persons in Damboa, Damasak, Monguno, Konduga, Malamfatori and other rural communities could no longer access treatment, as they could not afford transportation to travel to areas where services were available in Maiduguri and Biu.

“The situation was further compounded by the inability of the state government to pay its counterpart fund for the HIV/AIDS campaign programme in the last three years.

“Development partners could also not provide care and support services; economic strengthening support and other services to improve the health status of our members.

“It is clear that the virus is not curable but it could be controlled through effective management. Thousands of our members stopped visiting clinics and when we reach out to locate them we find out that they were either dead or missing.”

Mustapha further decried non-inclusion of their members in the state government’s skills acquisition programme, to enable them engage in income generating activities to be able to meet their needs.

“We have been able to control stigma in the society but we need economic empowerment support to enable us make a healthy living,” he said.

On his part, Haruna Mshelia, Borno commissioner for health, said the state had recorded success in the campaign against the virus in the past three years.

According to him, the state government had established 42 HIV testing service centres in health facilities and internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps and 52 prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) sites.

He said Borno has 12 ART sites in general hospitals across the state.

Mshelia said the state government had scaled up activities in 237 health facilities, to control transmission and provide quality services for positive living persons.

The commissioner said the services were provided in collaboration between the state government and National Action Committee on AIDS (NACA), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), FHI360, IHVN and UNFPA.

“In 2017, some 236, 404 persons were tested for HIV and 1, 902 new cases recorded in the state.

“11, 303 clients are currently receiving anti-retroviral treatment and 922 others on PMTCT.”

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