By Kemi Olatunde
On Friday, December 1st, countries of the world celebrated the World Aids Day. This celebration is observed worldwide in a bid to yearly reawaken governments of the world’s resolve towards the fight against HIV/AIDS as the pandemic is reputed to be the most life-threatening disease that was ever recorded because it has no cure.
In this vein, Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, has called for a collective commitment from the citizens towards ending AIDS by year 2030 as statistics has revealed that Ondo State had a total of 81, 871 people living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV as at 2016.
The governor made this call at the Dome along Igbatoro road, Akure while declaring open the celebration of the World Aids Day which is celebrated worldwide on December 1st of every year.
While delivering his keynote address, the governor described the celebration as a significant one that will help to reawaken people to an epidemic that is threatening human existence on earth.
While stating that about 3.4 million people are living with HIV with 252,000 new infections in Nigeria, he regretted that scarce resources that would have been expended to facilitate needed development in this part of the world are devoted to the control of the epidemic.
He expounded on the need for every citizen to assume the responsibility of ensuring that people have accessto HIV preventions intervention and treatment services devoid of discrimination.
He reiterated that everyone, regardless of who they are or where they live has a right to health which is also dependent on adequate sanitation and housing, nutritious food, healthy working conditions and access to justice.
To curb the increase of such HIV infections in youths, Akeredolu expressed the belief that educating these young people on HIV\AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases is the best life insurance they can receive.
He declared his government’s determination to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV and prevent new infections among the general members of the public while stating that awareness and mobilization campaign will be scaled up in the state.
Following his address, he then went on to launch the “play Safe Initiative” which was to test every adult and child at the occasion.
The secretary to the state government, Hon. Ifedayo Abegunde who is also the chairman of Ondo State Action against Aids in his welcome address said that HIV poses an enormous threat to the social, cultural and economic life of the people as well as the health of families and communities all over the world.
He said that it constitutes a leading development challenge which threatens the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals and has negatively impacted on every sector of the economy.
In view of this, he called for a renewed action against AIDS by placing it at the top of the country’s political and practical agenda and speak openly about the pandemic.
He stressed that Nigerians must guide against discrimination against people living with AIDS while saying that nothing can be gained by building barriers between ‘us and them’.
He said that to reduce stigmatization and discrimination in our society, the people must help people infected with HIV/AIDS to live positively by protecting their rights against discrimination.
At the programme tagged “right to health; making it happen”, there was also a lecture delivered by Dr. Dayo Adegbulu, the programme Manager, ODSACA and a symposium by six schools that were invited to speak to the topic.
The six schools invited were Aquinas College, Fiwasaye Girls Grammar school, Muslim College, Becky-Parker International School, Calvary College and Palmrock International School.
After the symposium in which representatives of the schools spoke for seven minutes each per school on the theme for this year’s world Aids Day, Abe Olamide and Sarunmi Rhoda of Palmrock International Schools came first in the symposium with Fiwasaye Girls Grammar School in the second position while Aquinas College came third.
The focal officer from the ministry of Education speaking on behalf of the panel of judges commended the representative of Palmrock International School for their clear and confident manner of speaking, precise presentation of facts and figures, good command of English Language, skilled public speaking and Comportment.
The first three schools were presented with their prizes by the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Wahab Adegbenro who was present at the occasion.
Delivering a lecture at the programme, the programme officer, Dr. Dayo Adegbulu urged Nigerians to show more concern towards the Aids pandemic while saying that everyone is at risk of the infection.
He stressed the need for government to take the HIV services to the rural areas while observing that the health services for HIV is mainly concentrated in the urban areas.
Stakeholders in the Ondo State health sector such as Non Governmnetal Organisations, Civil Society Organisations and people from the Ministry of health were also on hand to lend their voice to the campaign against the pandemic as their representatives delivered rousing and encouraging goodwill messages.