By ALEX UANGBAOJE, Kaduna
A traditional ruler from Jaba Local Government Area of Kaduna State has commended the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Kaduna State AIDS Control Agency (KADSACA), for their efforts at ensuring HIV/AIDS prevalence is reduced drastically among Adolescents and Young Persons (AYPs) in the state.
Iliya Bako Byeing, District Head of Dura, Jaba Chiefdom, who represented Jaba traditional council stated this at a one day Adolescents and Young Persons (AYP), Intervention Stakeholders Review Meeting on Thursday in Kaduna, supported by UNICEF.
According to him, before the commencement of the programme, it was very difficult to get young persons to medical facilities to do HIV test, and that talking about it was like a taboo for them, but that he said has changed as they now boldly come out not only to talk about it but they are now at the forefront of championing campaigns and awareness to reduce it.
“In the past, lack of awareness was a serious problem, people were not even aware that they need to go for test. The awareness has come and now, prevalence is going down because they are now aware.
“People were being stigmatized in the past because they don’t have sufficient knowledge of what HIV is, but now people no longer stigmatize people living with HIV and the situation has improved.” He added.
In his welcome address, Executive Director, KADSACA, Dr. David Mac Anthony, noted that the attention for AYPs became important to the state because government discovered in 2014 that over 18,000 young persons were living with the virus, and emphasis at that time was on adults.
“Previously when we were responding to HIV, we only focused on adults, and the young ones were not giving attention, so gradually prevalence rate among AYPs soared.
“With that observation, the national body in collaboration with UNICEF came up with a strategy targeted at AYPs and Kaduna state government keyed into it. Initially, two LGAs were identified; Jaba and Jama’a which was later expanded to five others; Chikun, Igabi, Lere, Kagarko, Birnin Gwari, and the services were provided by adolescents and young persons themselves who were mobilized and trained.
“They were also trained to mobilise other AYPs to access services; in form of demand creators, they were also trained to train other AYPs to carryout HIV counseling and testing, throug AYPs that have been mobilized through interpersonal communication. He said.
On his part, HIV/AIDS Specialist, UNICEF Kaduna Field Office, Dr. Idris Baba, called on KADSACA to ensure that AYP intervention programme is expanded to other LGAs that are currently not enjoying the programme.
He enumerated, high burden of HIV and AIDS, small but defined areas (locations) that will allow for easy measurement of indicators, prioritize areas with programme implementation capacity, consideration of geographic spread and diversity of the different locations and HIV epidemics, and consideration of availability of data for the priority intervention in the defined locations, as part of criteria used in selecting the benefitting LGAs for phase 2 of the programme.
Dr. Baba, said, the review meeting was rob minds with all the stakeholders and other intervention agencies to see how they can learn from their experiences in order to improve on interventions in Kaduna state.