HIV Status: UNICEF Youths Friendly Campaigns is Building Our Confidence, Says, Adolescents, Young Persons
By Uangbaoje Alex, Kaduna
The Adolescents & Young People (AYP) intervention programme is one of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) supported programmes that aims at scaling up HIV combination in terms prevention, treatment and care services for adolescents and young people in 7 Local Governments Areas (LGAs) of Chikun, Igabi, Lere, Kagarko, Birnin-Gwari, Jaba & Jema’a in Kaduna State.
The programme seeks to increase the number of adolescents and young persons (10-24) years who know their HIV status from 20% to 50% in 7 LGA’s, increase the proportion of sexually active adolescents (15-24) years using condoms from 30% to 50%, increase the percentage of HIV positive adolescents (10-24) years initiated on ART from 1% to 21% and also increase the number of primary/secondary schools providing FLHE from 25% to 45% by the end December 2019.
The programme from findings seems to be yielding it’s expected fruits as HIV prevalence rate in the state which used to be 9.2% in 2012 according to National HIV/AIDS and Reproductive Health Survey-Plus (NARHS-Plus), has since dropped to 0.6% according to a recent report by Kaduna State AIDS Indicator Survey (KADAIS).
Since inception of the programme, UNICEF has been working in collaboration with the Kaduna State AIDS Control Agency (KADSACA), and other partners including the media in ensuring the scourge is eliminated or drastically reduced to its barest minimum.
A chat with some AYPs in Sabon Tasha ward, recently showed that, apart from increased sexual education amongst them, demands for condoms is on the increase and more people are now coming out for HIV test and counseling.
24 years old, Gwani Gabriel, a graduate of Nuhu Bamali Polytechnic Zaria, who has been working as a Counselor/Tester for the AYP project since 2017, disclosed that young people are becoming more informed and interested in HIV discussions.
According to him, when the campaigns first started, there was high level of resistance from the AYPs but when they realized that the programme is about them and everything you do with them is very confidential, they began to have faith in the programme.
“One of the things we do after testing them is them if we found out you are positive, we don’t tell you at the counseling point, because you may not be in the right frame of mind to take it. So what we do is to refer you to a facility where you will do another test and then they will disclose your result and counsel you there.” Gabriel said.
He added that the biggest challenge they are facing is lack of condoms and test kits because of high demands for them, saying “the condoms and test kits are very few and we have a high number of people coming for test mostly because they want to collect condoms.”
Kauna Samaila, 24, who has participated in testing her HIV status for three times in the AYP project, said she ensures that any man having sex with her puts on condom to avoid contracting HIV and other STIs.
She revealed that though don’t care about condoms whenever she is meeting her finance because she trusted him, for whenever he is not around and there is need for her to have sex, she do it with condoms.
Kauna, however thanked UNICEF for helping her build her confidence and sleeping with her two eyes closed by regularly bringing the HIV test and counseling to her doorsteps, knowing she is HIV negative.
Another 24 year old Peter Bulus, a footballer, called on all young persons to always take advantage of the free HIV test and counseling being offered by UNICEF to check their status so they will know what to do even if they are tested positive.
“I have a girlfriend I have been dating for over four years now and we have never used condoms, but we always ensure we check our status whenever they are doing this outreach and that has really helped us and am not afraid whenever am going for test.
“The way the testers handles the session is very friendly whatever they discuss with you ends there, you will never hear it elsewhere. I know someone who is positive and no body know about it.”
Favour Timothy is a 13 years old Junior Secondary School Ugwan Boro, class III, who gladly came out to know her HIV status, her reason was that even though she has never had sex before, but because of the awareness, it is important that she know her status.
Another Junior Secondary School III student, of ECWA Grace Covenant School, Evans Victor 16, said he has done the test twice during UNICEF outreach programme, even though he is not ready for sex until he is 21.
“I know that you can contract HIV through the use of sharp objects and I have be very careful but I always want to know my status and I will continue to do the checks.” He added.
Shalom Bulus, who also started working as Demand Creator since 2017, said most young people didn’t get the concept of the HIV campaigns initially as such they were not ready to check their status, but that a lot of changes has been recorded recently.
“We used to convince them by our consistent enlightenments and education, telling them the reason why they shouting know their status and the benefit, because it is better to know and be safe.
“We let them know that HIV is not as deadly as they thought and thank God they now understand and they are the ones looking for us. There are other STIs we tell them about.” She added.
Peter Douglas, another Demand Creator, revealed that the initial challenge for them was the fact that they were working without identity cards and Apron, but that challenge was surmounted this year when they were provided with those materials.
The 24 years old 400 level student, said in the last 2yrs he has spoken with over 150,000 young people about HIV during in his mobilization campaigns, but that not all of them turned up for testing and counseling.
“Even those that will be ready to come will first ask you if there are condoms. And some people will even tell you they are not sick that the only problem with them is that they need money, but after making them to understand why it is important, then they will give you attention.” Douglas explained.