HIV/AIDS not death sentence, says patient

Seen as one of the most deadly diseases that has ever hit mankind, the cure for Human Immunodeficiency Virus/ Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) has remain illusive over the years, even in the developed nations, in spite of several scientific researches.

The first case of HIV/AIDS was reported in Nigeria in 1986, and since then the epidemic has been on the rise.

Though the prevalence of the disease has declined to a commendable 3.4 per cent in 2013 from the about 3.8 per cent it peaked between 2004 and 2005. It is estimated that about 3.2 million Nigerians are living with the disease, and there are about 220,393 new-recorded cases.

Experts attest to the fact that, the major route of transmission of HIV in Nigeria is through sexual transmission, accounting for about 80 per cent of HIV infection in the country.

The hematology department of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos, began to see the PLWHA before antiretroviral drugs were available in 2002, so it became one of the sites for the antiretroviral programme.

A health worker, who has been with the AIDS Prevention Initiative in Nigeria (APIN) clinic in LUTH, since inception in 2005, observed that unlike years ago when people don’t come out openly for treatment due to the stigma attached to the disease, “these days people voluntarily come to register themselves for treatment of the disease after knowing their status.”

The health worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, disclosed to The Guardian that, with his years of experience at the clinic, most of their patients are women and perhaps children, with the number of men very minimal.

In the course of the interaction, he also revealed that there is a procedure at the clinic before patients are been attended to. The patient has to go for counseling, and then test to confirm their status before registration for treatment to commence.

He added that apart from an amount of N5000 patients pay when undergoing test to confirm their status, the antiretroviral treatment administered to them is free.

He classified the antiretroviral drugs into three groups namely the first, second and third line of treatment, and that the efficacy of the three forms varies. But the clinic only provides the first and second line treatment, and that government provisions doesn’t cover for the third line treatment because it is expensive.

When asked how expensive, he answered by saying approximately nine hundred thousand naira per month should be expected to be expended by patients with the resources.

The Guardian observed that most of the patients present were women with children, whom he affirmed that Tuesdays are meant to attend strictly to children and probably their mothers in certain cases, and that all other days are for adult treatment.

The health worker also explained that people with the disease can live a normal and healthy life if the antiretroviral therapy is regular and appointments with their doctors are not missed.

They can even get married and reproduce after they have been counseled with their partners on how to live without infecting their spouses who don’t have the disease.

Interacting with some of the people seated and awaiting to be called upon for drugs, three of them claimed they where there to collect the antiretroviral on behalf of relatives. “I came to collect the drugs for my uncle who lives at Benin state,” one of them said.

Another person who opened up to be an HIV patient at the clinic said HIV/AIDS is like any other disease and it can happen to anybody, so people should treat them well.

He commended the efforts of the clinic saying that they take their time to counsel patients nicely not to see the disease like a doom.

Meanwhile, the National Prevention Plan 2014 – 2015 is aimed at providing direction for the implementation of the behavior change and prevention of new HIV infections track of the 2010 – 2015 national HIV/ AIDS strategic plan.

In view of the efforts of the last few years, this plan focuses on addressing four thematic areas of HIV prevention: HIV counseling and testing (HCT), prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV (PMTCT), biomedical HIV prevention and prevention of sexual transmission of HIV.

It is envisaged that the implementation of this plan will contribute to Nigeria achieving its target for universal access and coverage by the end of 2015.

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