As the world gets set to mark World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, the Coalition of Civil Society Networks on HIV and AIDS in Nigeria (CoCSNHAN) says Gender-Based Violence (GBV) can trigger community spread of HIV/AIDS if left unchecked.
The First Co-Chairman of the group, Mr Ikenna Nwakamma, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Sunday.
Celebrated annually on Dec. 1 since 1988, World AIDS Day is an international observance day dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic, caused by the spread of HIV infection and mourning those who died of the condition.
The theme for the 2020 observance is “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact” to focus more attention to the HIV scourge, increased awareness and knowledge, as well as speak out against stigma.
Nwakamma said that increased cases of GBV such as rape and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the country and in many places around the globe, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, was not only worrisome, but capable of disrupting the progress so far recorded in the fight against HIV.
The co-chairman described GBV as “a pandemic”, noting that the increased cases had its attendant consequences.
He explained that mental issues could be responsible for GBV, which was capable of escalating new HIV infections as occasioned by the COVID-19 lockdown.
He added that “another serious emerging issue from the COVID-19 pandemic was the increase in cases of gender based violence and the resultant mental health burden.
“The most disturbing part was that people had no support as world attention shifted to COVID-19.
“Many people living with the virus were cut off from their doctors while the first lockdown lasted in the midst of increased GBV, which could lead to new HIV infections.”
Nwakamma, therefore, advocated mobile healthcare for Nigerians, especially for people living with HIV.
He said “what these situations point to is the need to take healthcare beyond the hospitals. We have been too biomedical in our approach and pay less attention to the opportunities in community-based response or home-based care.
“We have to devise a means to improve or promote healthcare services in the spaces where people live. One way to do this is to evolve and strengthen a home-based care model, using technology.
“For instance, we can have platforms for tele-counselling and reporting or a simple tele-medicine approach that can allow people to consult their clinicians by phone or virtually.”
He said that the lesson from COVID-19 was a pointer toward having mobile hospitals and increased attention to mental health. (NAN)