(Picture:Dr. Asma’u Abdulkadir, Special Adviser to the President on Gender matters reading the First Lady’s address at the OAFLA General Assembly. She is flanked by Mrs. Onyeka Owenu, Director Women Development Centre, Abuja)
Violent conflicts which are endemic in some parts of Africa, sexual assault during wars, children born from rape and uncontrolled exposure to the internet by children and youths have been implicated in new HIV and AIDS infection on the continent.
Nigeria’s First Lady, Dame Patience Faka Jonathan made this assertion at the 13th General Assembly of the Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV and AIDS held on the sideline of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Friday.
The First Lady who is also the President of the African FIrst Ladies Peace Mission and International Telecommunication (ITU) Global Child Online Protection (COP) Champion, noted that in order to overcome the HIV and AIDS pandemic, “we have to think deeper and look beyond the present efforts.”
Represented by Dr. Asmau’u Abdulkadir, special adviser to the president on gender matters, Dame Patience Jonathan remarked that in spite of the advantages of the Internet in boosting knowledge, communication and social interaction, “it has also thrown up the challenges of unwholesome behaviors that are promoting crime, child abuse, child pornography, among others.”
The First Lady observed that “the unwholesome activities on the Internet and lack of effective monitoring and control expose our children and the youths to indecent behaviors that predispose them to the risk of contracting HIV and AIDS.”
She stated that her investiture as ITU child online protection champion in July last year and her attendance of several conferences on cyber crime and cyber security has made her to appreciate the enormity of the harmful effect children are exposed to on the Internet.
She added: “We in Nigeria have reflected deeply on this new challenge and have initiated series of campaigns to save our children, including the children of our continent and the world at large on Internet abuse, given its potential in scaling up HIV and AIDS pandemic.”
Dame Patience Jonathan therefore, appealed to African First Ladies to reflect critically on the potential of violent conflicts, sexual assault and the uncontrolled exposure of children to harmful contents on the Internet in making women and children victims of HIV and AIDS, and “to design new strategies of combating this latent threats.”
Speaking on the efforts of the Nigerian government in checking the spread of HIV and AIDS and stopping new infections, Dame Patience Jonathan reported to the General Assembly that President Goodluck Jonathan launched a Comprehensive Response Plan on HIV and AIDS in 2013.
According to her, the target of the President’s intervention was to avail 80million Nigerians of age 15 and above knowledge of their HIV status; enrol an additional 600,000 eligible adults and children on ART; provide ARVs for 244,000 HIV pregnant women for PMTCT; offer access to 500,000 MARPs and 4million young persons.
The programme also aims at activating 2,000 PMTCT and ART service delivery points across the country.