Caritas Nigeria, an NGO, on Thursday inaugurated the Imo State HIV Surge Consortium in partnership with the state government.
Addressing delegates at the event in Owerri, the state Gov. Chief Emeka Ihedioha, thanked Caritas Nigeria and the United States Centre for Disease Control (US-CDC) for partnering with the state in fighting the HIV pandemic.Ihedioha, who was represented by his Senior Special Assistant on Health Matters, Mrs E. Mbadiwe, pledged his administration’s commitment to working in close collaboration with all stakeholders in the health sector as part of his rebuilding efforts.
“We are grateful to US-CDC, Caritas and other partner organizations for your willingness to work with us in the last seven years and we use this medium to pledge our continued commitment to the fight against HIV,” he said.The state Comissioner for Health, Dr Vin Udokwu, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Mr G.E Nna, expressed her conviction that the state would be among the first to achieve the epidemic control target of September 2020.
”According to the National Indicator and Impact Survey, we are just about 5 feet away from gold with the Imo HIV prevalence dropping from 14 per cent in 2014 to 1.8 per cent in June 2019,” he said.Mr Kennedy Ibe, Chairman of Imo Assembly Committee on Health, promised to help in ensuring speedy passage of bills that would aid the fight against HIV.Ibe also assured that his committee would work hard to facilitate increased budgetary allocations to Imo health sector.Eze Samuel Ohiri, Chairman of Imo Council of Traditional Rulers, condemned the stigmatisation of persons living with HIV, while urging Imo residents to avoid unprotected intercourse.
The traditional ruler and renowned scientist urged partner organisations to embark on long-term investments in the state such as building pharmaceutical companies to produce generic anti retroviral drugs.
According to him, this will not only help in fighting the scourge, but also create employment and take the youths away from prostitution, thereby reducing the prevalence rate of the pandemic.Presenting the state’s statistics on HIV, Mr Ayodele Fagbemi from the US-CDC, said that among 133, 792 persons tested for HIV between January and June, 3,891 tested positive, while 18,205 persons were currently on Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART).He thanked Ohiri for donating 5,000 quick check HIV test kits which contributed to the test of 4,225 persons.
Others who attended the consortium included Mr Godson Iberia, the Chairmen of Imo Chapter of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) , Dr Wale Fadare from Caritas and the Director of Public Health at the state Ministry of Health, Dr Ikechi Chinemerem. NAN)