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Youths in Kaduna Commends UNICEF’s Door-to-door HIV Counseling and Testing Campaign 

By Alex Uangbaoje, Kaduna

Some Youths in Kaduna State have commended the door-to-door HIV/AIDS counseling and testing campaign, embarked by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with the state government.

The youths, who came out en mass to access the services, in Angwan Matari, Sabon Tasha, Chukun Local Government Area of the state, described the initiative as “commendable”.

According to them, the strategy was a sure way of reaching out to the youths in their comfort zone, adding that the effort would break distance barrier and improve access to HIV/AIDS services.

One of them, Faith John, told journalists that the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS among the Adolescent and Young People (AYP), was because of the fear associated with HIV testing.

“Aside from the fear of knowing our HIV status, HIV/AIDS services at the health centres are not youth-friendly. That scares a lot of us away, but I am confident things will change with this project.

“Am so impress that the people providing the needed HIV information are youths, the counselors and testers are equally youths and the whole exercise is being carried out in our domain, “she said.  

Another youth, Dogara Zwahu, equally said that the youths-friendly strategy would tackle the fright associated with HIV testing among AYPs.

Zwahu acknowledged that quite a number of AYPs do not know their HIV status, adding that the ongoing campaign would not only increase AYP knowledge about HIV, but also encourage them to get tested.

“This is very crucial in eliminating HIV/AIDS in the state, because it is when people know their status that they could be place on treatment, and undertake preventive measures, “he said.

On her part, Mrs Lucy Bungwon, the Focal Person, Chukun Local Government Action Committee on AIDS, said that the project targets about 18,000 youths in the council area, between August and May 2018.

According to her, no fewer than, 72 HIV/AIDS services demand creators and 24 HIV counselors and testers have been deployed to all the 12 wards of the LGA.

“They are going to all the nuke and crannies of Chukun LGA, creating demand for HIV services; counseling and testing AYPs to know their status such that those found to be positive would be placed on treatment.”

Meanwhile, Dr Idris Baba, HIV/AIDS Specialist, UNICEF Kaduna explained that the AYP project is a UNICEF supported programme designed to scale-up HIV combination of prevention, treatment and care services for AYPs in the state.

Baba said that the project is being implemented in seven local government areas of Chukun, Igabi, Lere, Kagarko, Birnin Gwari, Jaba and Jema’a.

He added that 624 demand creators, counselors and testers have been trained for the project, adding that 468 are creating demand for HIV services, while 156 are providing HIV counseling and testing services in the seven LGAs.

“This is because only a few of AYP in the state know their HIV status, and the reason is simple; HIV services in our health facilities are not youth-friendly. The youths are not comfortable discussing HIV related issues with elderly people.

“They feel comfortable with their peers and open up more; meaning that we will break more grounds when we engage the youths to sensitise their peers about the virus to increase demand for services.

“As you can see more youths are coming out for counseling and testing when they learn that their peers are in charge.

“Am very confident that at the end of the project in May 2018, 90 per cent of AYPs in Kaduna state would get tested; 90 per cent would know their HIV status and 90 per cent of HIV positive AYPs would be place on treatment, “Baba said.

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