Mrs Eunice Ortom, Wife of Benue State Governor, has tasked all stakeholders in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS to put all mechanisms in place towards achieving a zero HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the state.
She said that Benue State had over the years been rated the highest in HIV/AIDS prevalence in Nigeria, but was currently occupying the ninth position, which was indicative that the journey to achieving zero was just a mile away.
Mrs Ortom, who is also the Chairperson of the Board of Governors for the Benue State Aids Control Agency (BENSACA) made the call on Saturday’s flag-off of the Guinness World record campaign on massive HIV tests in the state capital, Markurdi.
In achieving the zero prevalence, Mrs Ortom noted that it was critical to target epidemic hot spots at mega cities thereby ensuring equitable access to high quality, cost effective HIV prevention and programs among others.
“Benue state had the highest prevalence on HIV and AIDS in Nigeria, but due to the dedicated and collaborative efforts by BENSACA and other partners, the State has been lifted ninth among states in the country.
“Our focus over the years is getting to zero, which implies zero infections, zero HIV related deaths, zero discrimination against persons with HIV.
“The concept of testing ten thousand persons in a day is therefore not just an exercise for the purpose of breaking the Guinness world record, but to send a strong message to the world that testing is the first step to prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS and everybody needs to know their status,” she said.
The Governor’s wife applauded the effort of the Aids Health Care Foundation (AHF) in their campaign to test ten thousand persons in a day, thereby, ensuring that many people have access to testing and counseling services.
Ortom also disclosed that WHO report indicated that 7,000 people are newly infected with HIV everyday despite the global adoption of getting to zero.
She said that HIV testing must be anchored in a human right approach that pays due respect to ethical principles, according to the policy statement of UNAIDS and WHO.
“HIV testing of individuals must be confidential and accompanied by counseling for those who test positive with the informed consent of the person been tested,” she said.
Ortom further noted that in developing counties like Nigeria, home-based HIV testing and counseling was an emerging approach for addressing issues of confidentiality.