On the occasion of theWorld AIDS day, 2009
Every year, the 1st of December is celebrated globally as World AIDS Day. Since 1988, this day has been set aside for increasing awareness, fighting prejudice and improving education about HIV/AIDS.
The reality of HIV/AIDS can no longer be contested by any rational person. The latest world statistics show that 33.4million people, including 2.1million children, are living with HIV/AIDS, there being 2.7million new infections in 2008 alone. About half of the HIV infections occur before the age of 25 years and kill the victims before they are 35 years. In other words, HIV/AIDS virtually eliminates our youths, our vibrant work force. Overall, 2million people died globally of HIV/AIDS in 2008 and the world has lost 25million people to HIV/AIDS since its discovery in 1981.
Sub-Saharan Africa currently bears 67% of the global HIV/AIDS burden with HIV prevalence rates of up to 23.9% in Botswana and 18% in South Africa.
In Nigeria , 2.6million people, both adults and children, are living with HIV/AIDS. This translates to approximately 20% of the global HIV burden even though Nigeria represents barely 2% of the World’s population.
In Keffi, 9.1% of women attending antenatal clinic as well as 8.6% of prospective blood donors are HIV positive.
Unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected partner, transfusion with infected blood, sharing of sharp objects between infected and uninfected persons and transmission from an infected mother to her unborn or breast-feeding baby remain the major means of transmission of HIV. These are fueled by ignorance, poverty, illiteracy and reckless lifestyles. Abstinence from unprotected sexual intercourse, being faithful to a single, uninfected sexual partner, correct and consistent use of condoms, avoidance of transfusion with unscreened blood, avoidance of sharing of sharp objects and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) remain the major means of prevention of HIV transmission.
The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is UNIVERSAL ACCESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS. It draws attention to the need for people living with HIV/AIDS anywhere in the world to have unhindered access HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, recognizing this as fundamental human rights.
Frequently, we infringe on the fundamental human rights of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs). Discrimination and stigmatization in whatever form against PLWHAs constitute an infringement on their fundamental human rights and these in turn hinder access to prevention, treatment, care and support. We must respect and protect PLWHAs.
We are hereby called upon to join the fight against HIV/AIDS. Let us provide unhindered access to information on prevention to those who are uninfected and unhindered access to treatment, care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Thank you very much.
Dr Leo Chukwuali (JP)
MBBS, FWACS, FICS.
PMTCT Focal Person.
For the Project Director