Why stigma still huge burden to persons living with HIV/AIDS in Taraba – President, WHA

By Suru Charles

Silence on why some persons living with the Human Immunodeficiency Viruses (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in Taraba state are still finding it cumbersome to come out and enrol for treatment and counselling has been broken by the President, World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA), Dr Danjuma Adda.

The president who recently spoke extensively at the end of the year one project report dissemination meeting with stakeholders, in Jalingo, Taraba state, was observed to have identified stigmatization and discrimination against persons living with the virus, as major factors hindering those living with the virus from availing themselves for treatment and counselling.

The stakeholder’s meeting which was organized by the Centre for Initiative and Development (CFID) with support from the ViiV Positive Action Project, as noticed by our state correspondent, brought together stakeholders from the implementing three local government councils of the state.

Citing efforts of traditional rulers and community leaders, in ensuring that persons living with the virus are accessing treatment, the need for the media to be at the forefront of sanitizing the public against stigma, he believed can no longer be overemphasized.

In his call, he admonished the various media houses to see the need to disseminate accurate information and awareness in a bid to sensitise people against stigmatisation and discrimination against people living with the virus in the state and the country at large.

Adda who went ahead to reel out the predicaments confronted by the organization while implementing the project, said “people refused to come out and enrol or be tested because of stigmatization.”

Applauding the traditional rulers and community leaders, who according to him, “are very supportive” the organization “owned it a responsibility to account for the people we are working for.”

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The project titled “Closing the Gap in Retention in HIV care among children living with HIV and caregivers in Taraba state” was geared at identifying children and caregivers living with HIV but are not on treatment.

Apart from identifying them, the project, as stated by Adda, has also been assigned the responsibility of enrolling and supporting to remain in care “through differentiated models of care” which as enumerated by him includes ” mental health services to achieve viral load suppression”.

Within the first year of the project implementation, 6344 people were tested in the three local government councils where the project is being implemented adding that “the people are now aware of their HIV status.”

Putting the figure of those that tested positive at 131 out of which 71 were new HIV cases who have never known their HIV status across the three local government councils, such persons have been linked to HIV care services, stating that “60 have been enrolled.”

Believing that much can be achieved in the second year as the project was observed to have been scaled up to other communities in Gashaka council, he passionately beckoned on Journalists to take advantage of their platforms in dispelling the rumours, myths and misconceptions surrounding HIV/AIDS in the state.

Some clients whom our correspondent noticed to have volunteered to speak out at the stakeholders meeting that brought together health experts, community leaders, volunteers, among others, beckoned at those still shying away from accessing treatment to as a matter of urgency make themselves available for testing, counselling and treatment, stating that “the virus is not a death sentence.”

He narrated how CFID has been impacting positively on Tarabans, especially those domiciling in rural communities, and the need for other implementing partners operating in the state.

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