Bayelsa State Governor, Henry Seriake Dickson on Thursday challenged the State Agency for the Control of HIV/AIDS, Ministry of Health and other related agencies to intensify efforts at further reducing the prevalence rate of the scourge from the current 3.8% to zero level by the year 2017.
He gave the charge during the World AIDS Day celebration, shortly after he led the three arms of the government on a jogging exercise to create awareness against HIV/AIDs from Imgbi junction to the Peace Park in Yenagoa, the state capital.
Speaking on this year’s theme, “Hands Up For HIV Prevention,” he urged the people of the state to take the message of the agencies responsible for the control of the disease seriously by abstaining from sexual practices or adopt other modes of prevention to promote a healthy living.
While condemning stigmatisation, Governor Dickson also encouraged the people to undertake voluntary testing to know their status to prevent the spread of the HIV virus, stressing that being HIV positive was no longer a death sentence, as there are better means of managing the pandemic.
He noted that, the government would soon organise an Awareness and Testing Day, stating that, its health strategy was to establish health facilities in all the local government areas, including the ward headquarters.
His words: “We want the message to be taken to our communities, where the majority of our people reside. Our current health strategy is to have a major presence not just in the local government areas with the health facilities we are building, but we want to be present in every ward headquarters.”
In his remarks, the Acting Director General of the State Agency for the Control of HIV/AIDS, Mr. Alex Ogregade said, a recent survey conducted by the Federal Ministry of Health indicates that, about 76,000 persons in Bayelsa are affected with HIV/AIDS.
He, therefore, urged all public and private partners to be actively involved in the dissemination of information concerning HIV/AIDs, its prevention, care and support, adding that only a small percentage of Bayelsans are aware of their HIV/AIDS status.
Also speaking, the State Programme Manager, Mr. Julius Chinedu, said the state recorded HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of 9.1%, but has been reduced to 3.8% attributing it to the collaborative efforts of the state government, international partners, civil society organizations and other stakeholders.
He noted that, the programme known as FHI360, and its consortium of partners funded by USAID have been providing free quality HIV/AIDS services across selected health facilities in the 8 local government areas of Bayelsa, adding that it has treated over 6,800 HIV positive individuals.