Dr Naaziga Francis, Programme Manager of Rivers State Agency for the Control of AIDS (RIVSACA).
From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
Media practitioners in Rivers state have been called to partner with the Rivers State Agency for the Control of AIDS, RIVSACA, following the recorded prevalence of the virus in the state.
This as the state is said to have over 122, 500 persons living with Human Immune Virus, HIV, receiving free treatment in various health facilities across the Local Government Areas of the state.
Speaking during a partnership meeting with media representative in Port Harcourt, Dr Naaziga Francis, Programme Manager of RIVSACA, informed that the number of people living with HIV in the state is about 210, 000 by estimate.
Dr Naaziga disclosed “The HIV prevalence of Rivers State between 2018/19 was at 3.8% while that of the national stands at 1.3%. This put us at 3rd position behind Benue state and Akwa Ibom which has the highest prevalence status of people living with HIV/AIDS. If you translate it with number of people living with HIV, vis-a-vis our population that puts us around 210, 000 persons that are estimated living with the virus in the state.
“The agency is a coordinator for HIV/AIDS. That means we work with all parties that response to HIV and the providing HIV services is a joint thing between the government and some international partners that are working with us in the HIV space.
“Today, we have over 120, 000 adults that are on anti-retroviral drugs treatment across the 23 local government areas of Rivers State and HIV services are readily available in both public and private medical facilities in the LGAs. We also have community level engagement, people who are working into our communities and doing testing, and even initiating treatment at the community level and then do referral to the health facilities.
“We also have specific or specialised HIV services for children between 0-17 years and we have on record 2, 504 persons within this age bracket that are also receiving treatment. We have additional services that we provide for the children section, where the parent of these children are supported with transport and nutritional supplements: they are supported with income generated activities”.
Dr Naaziga who called on residence of the state to access the health facilities and ascertain their status, commended the effort of the state Governor Nyesom Wike, in fighting the spread of the virus.
He said “Beacuse the HIV services are becoming more efficient, we are achieving a whole lot of viral suppression such that people are living seemly normal life despite of being HIV positive. So we are encouraging our people to come up and take this treatment that are available, free and close to us as possible because that is important.
“Rivers State is blessed with PCR machine. In all our secondary facilities across the state HIV drugs are available in those places. We also have in arious primary healthcare facilities that are in our various LGA. These services are available. Where the drugs are not available you can access from the neighbouring community. We also provide Prevention from Mother to Child Transmission (PMCT) of HIV services. This is a service that pregnant women that are HIV positive are placed on certain type of anti-retroviral drugs such that it reduces their chances of transmitting the virus to the unborn child.
“The Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike graciously did a waiver for women that are positive for their antenatal fee, so as to encourage women to obtain this service. He also gave waiver for anybody living with the virus for consultation and card fee. It is on record that we are having a whole lots of children whose mothers are HIV positive but the children come out negative by being involved in the PMCT programme.
“There is a whole lot to be done in the HIV space, that is why we need the media to collaborate with us, educate and inform the people to take advantage of these free services that are available because we still have alot of challenges especially for the children”, Naaziga added.