No fewer than 8,000 Persons Living With HIV/AIDS, PLWHA, in Benue state are reported to be receiving free antiretroviral treatment and care services from the the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, AHF.

Healthcare personnel from the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, during the cancer awareness and enlightening campaign held for market women and men at the Ojuwoye Market, Mushin, Lagos during the 2010 World Cancer day recently. Cancer and HIV/AIDS are two of world’s deadliest diseases

Acting Director, AHF, Dr. Greg Abiaziam who made this known at the commemoration of the 30 year anniversary of the foundation in Makurdi, said the beneficiaries had been on the care list of the organization for six years.

Recounting the history of the virus and the advent of AHF, Dr. Abiaziam said, “some many years ago, the history of the HIV and AIDS epidemic was one of illness that came with uncertainty, fear and death as the world faced a new and unknown virus.

“Today‘s achievements are a result of dogged commitments of individuals, organisations and governments. Looking back, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) evolved out of the struggle for the today that we now have.

“Before the advent of of Antiretrovirals ARVs in the mid 80’s, lots of people were dying on the street of the United States of America, in their homes because there was nobody to care for them.

“They were stigmatized, discriminated and dehumanized. As the AIDS crisis intensified, Michael Weinstein, AHF president, ‘watched more and more of his friends grow ill and die.

“Los Angeles County hospital had barely developed procedures for handling dying AIDS patients, and many were left to expire alone on crowded hallways. Doctors and nurses would often refuse to care for people with AIDS, and when the untreated patients died, undertakers often turned them away, too.

“In some parts of the country, the deceased ended up in garbage bags delivered directly to crematories. Weinstein wanted to ensure that AIDS patients could die in a respectful, peaceful atmosphere.

In 1988, he and Chris Brownlie founded the precursor of AHF, the AIDS Hospice Foundation, which catered for dying patients so that they can die with dignity.

“In 1990, as more HIV medications became available, Weinstein changed the group’s name to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and shifted its focus to medical care for the living.’

“Today, AHF is the largest global AIDS organization which now provides HIV/AIDS services, including antiretroviral treatment,to more than 830,000 people in 38 countries including Nigeria at different clinics.

“We have indeed come far in HIV treatment, to the point where an HIV patient receiving recommended treatment is no longer able to transmit the virus to another person.

“People who are positive are having healthy babies who are HIV negative, and, generally, persons living with the virus are having longer life expectancy and living productive lives.

“We face many challenges still, but with determination and more commitment, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.

Continuing, Dr. Abiaziam said, “the last 6 years in Benue State have been dedicated to saving lives, giving hope to the hopeless, voice to the voiceless and impacting lives of over 8,000 PLWH.

“We have expanded our coverage to ensure people in hard to reach areas know their HIV status and have access to life saving Antiretroviral Therapy, ART.

“We believe that with your continuous support and collaboration of all, we will have an AIDS free Benue by 2030.”

The acting Director also appealed to the Benue state government to scale up its support and intervention in the state noting that it was by so doing that the fight against the scourge in the state would be successful.

In her speech, the Benue state Commissioner of Health, Dr. Cecilia Ojabo who was represented by her Permanent Secretary, Mr. Sunday Ochenjile commended AHF for its leading role in the fight against the virus in the state.

“You have given hope to our people because you have been an active participant in the fight against the virus in Benue state.

“You have kept the promise and objective of your organization, we commend you for the result you have achieved.

“On our part as a government, we are committed to funding the fight against the scourge and also leading the advocacy against the virus in order to ensure that the prevalence is brought down in the state.”

On his part, the Executive Secretary of Benue State Agency for the Control of AIDS, BENSACA, Dr. Gideon Dura noted that AHF had an effective community based Programne that was yielding positive results.

“This is effective in fighting the scourge because all the services are rooted at the community level and it has actually impacted the people.

“Thousands of our people are benefitting from the services. We must acknowledge that HIV/AIDS is a serious problem in Benue today and government will not relent in its fight against the virus. We also appeal that all hands be on deck to fight the virus.

“We must all be united to fight this fight which should not be limited to HIV/AIDS but all diseases.”

On his part, Dr. Kelechi Nwoke of the AIDS Prevention Initiative in Nigeria, APIN, Public Health Initiatives, sued for a concerted fight against the AIDS scourge in order to end the prevalence by the year 2020.

Also speaking, Dr. Jack Inalegwu of the Benue State Health Management Board, noted that the collaboration of the board and AHF in hospitals in the state had helped to bring down the prevalence of the virus in the state.

While Dr. Plang Jwanle, the State Programme Manager of the Centre for Integrated Health Programs, CIHP, in his speech stressed that “we have been working with AHF to scale up services, reaching all the nooks and crannies of the state which ordinarily wouldn’t have been reach.

“It is our desire to ensure that in the coming 30 years our intervention will get stronger and better to help stem the tide of HIV/AIDS.”

In his remark, a victim of the virus, Mr. Ali Baba who lauded and commended AHF for its intervention to have the scourge eradicate sued for more collaboration between care and service providers and carriers of the virus.

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Source: Vanguard News

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8,000 Benue HIV/AIDS victims receiving free care/treatment from AHF – Director
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