By Odimegwu Onwumere
Dr. Abdulaziz Manga, Executive Secretary, Bauchi State Agency for the Control of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Leprosy and Malaria, BACATMA has said that his agency was targeting three million people in the bid to stem the raving effects of HIV/AIDS in the state. He gave this indication in a forum organised to sensitise people on the prevalence of the disease in the state.
At a meeting organised by the Senator A.D Rufai Foundation in Bauchi, Manga who was represented at the occasion by the director, HIV/AIDS Control in the agency, Mallam Yakubu Abubakar, believed the exercise would be supported by the federal government with about N260 million for the velvety accomplishment of the exercise.
Rilwanu Muhammad, Chairman of BACATMA had said that of about three million people living with HIV/AIDS, 60 per cent were women. According to him in 2009, over 13,000 people were infected with the HIV/AIDS virus in Bauchi State. Katagum, Ningi, Tafawa Balewa and Jama’are were given as among the local government areas with the highest rate of prevalence among the 20 local government councils in the state.
The story of one Maryam, the wife of Alhamdubi Dan, who was discovered to be HIV positive, when she went to Ningi General Hospital for antenatal and was later delivered of a baby boy on February 4, 2007, is one story among the many untold cases of women living with HIV/AIDS in the state. Hajia Ibrahim, who’s said to have lived with HIV for about 13 years, is another of the stories of the high prevalent rate of the disease in Bauchi state.
Recently, some commercial sex workers who were operating in Bauchi State tested positive to HIV. They were afterwards advised to repent and get married to victims of the same status or leave the state. Confirming this, Dr. Sulaiman Muhammad of BACATMA, had said: “About 30 commercial sex workers were confirmed to carry the virus out of the 51 tested by the BACATMA in two different locations in the state.”
Dr. Mohammed Liman, a director in BACATMA had said that 28,610 pregnant women were counselled and tested. 325 HIV/AIDS exposed children received early infant diagnosis services, 196 exposed infants received ARV prophylaxis, 468 HIV/AIDS positive mothers received infant feeding counselling.
Match making HIV/AIDS victims for marriage has been identified by specialists as one effective way of reducing the incidence of the disease and the promotion of de-stigmatisation of those individuals infected with HIV and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. Nonetheless, UNAIDS discourages the “arranged marriages” from producing children due to the fact that there is the likelihood of the children becoming orphans thereby throwing the burden back to the society.
The organisation, still, said, “the theory of arranged marriage of infected individuals allows them to escape the stigma that is associated with being HIV-positive, but it does not solve the issue of HIV/AIDS prevention. Many organisations, such as the United Nations do not approve of the arranged marriages, due to its ineffectiveness and potential dangers.”
The state-of-affairs in Bauchi is that HIV/AIDS has been on the rise since 1999, contrary to what Dr. Adullaziz Mohammed of BACATMA claims: “The HIV prevalence in the state as at 2001 was 6.8 percent. In 2010, it was two percent and in 2012, it came down to 0.6 percent, which shows that people are becoming enlightened about the virus in the state.”
Analysts are of the estimation that the facilities in the state are inadequate. 127 HIV screening centres and 21 anti-retroviral treatment centres are said to be too inadequate to cater for the needs of victims. Despite that, polygamy is another issue that helps in the spread of the disease. And this affects the women more than the men, since a man is the one who normally goes out and is entitled to as many women as he wants. Rape is another contributing factor, according to psychotherapists; it is used by the police as a means of torture to extract confessions from suspects in custody.
The source went further: “Women and girls rarely seek prosecution for fear of intimidation by the police and rejection by their families and community. Rape and sexual assault contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS; yet, BACTMA falsely assumes that married couples will have a degree of social protection against rape crimes.”
Explorations have divulged that even when the case of rape is taken to court, “widespread failures throughout the judicial system result in only an estimated 10% of cases ever being successfully prosecuted.” Also, “the Islamic laws which Bauchi state follows” do not encourage the use of condoms and the people are not provided with enough information about sexually transmitted diseases.
In the “Discriminatory Attitudes and Practices by Health Workers Towards Patient with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria”, analyses show that some healthcare workers believe that the people living with the plague should be isolated when in hospital. Nevertheless, experts have suggested that efforts should be targeted at de-stigmatising HIV/AIDS in “shapes and forms” in order to encourage social justice and the patients should not be unsuccessful to visit hospitals and palliative homes.
According to the connoisseurs, the Bauchi cultural beliefs and attitudes, the gender related power differences, the woman’s social status and social stigma towards the women with HIV/AIDS, have to be cross-examined to abreast the realities of the time.
Olu Funke, a Bauchi-based anti-HIV/AIDS campaigner is of the opinion that, “the surrounding community should stop attacks or ostracising the women living with the virus. The government should protect them by enacting legislations and implementing them. The mass media should stop publishing inflammable lies about the disease. The medical community should stop combating the HIV/AIDS with lies in their actions. People should create an environment extremely friendly to the victims of the epidemic.”
Funke went further to say that women in the state should be empowered as the wife of Ogun State Governor, Mrs Olufunso Amosun empowered about 300 women living with HIV/AIDS, as part of activities marking the 2014 International Women’s Day Celebration.
A staffer of BACATMA said: “The idea by Dr. Sulaiman Muhammad, which suggested that BACATMA was in collaboration with the state Shari’a Commission that would soon begin a crack down on unrepentant commercial sex workers who have tested positive to HIV virus but continue to spread it, should be reinforced… There should be assistance of the media, numerous NGO’s, CBO’s, CSOs, community leaders and corporate bodies, to take the campaign against HIV/AIDS in Bauchi to the surrounding areas.”
It’s understood that the major quick ways to limit the spread of the virus is the Agency’s intention under Sulaiman to establish mobile HIV counselling and testing units in rural areas and markets, so that people can access its services thereby enhancing health care delivery and bringing the services to the doorsteps of the people.
Odimegwu Onwumere wrote from Port Harcourt. Tel: +2348032552855. Email: [email protected]