From ANIEKAN ANIEKAN, Calabar
The cross river state government and its development partners have commenced a door to door testing and treatment of HIV/AIDS to contain the spread of the virus in the state.
This was disclosed by the state commissioner for health, Dr Mrs Inyang Asibong while marking the day in the state and also the official opening of the Christmas village in Calabar.
The commissioner disclosed that the state government is taking the message directly to the people in the grassroots and already some communities in the state like Calabar municipality has over 90% residents who know their status and have access to drugs.
“The HIV day is just one day but in cross river state, it is a continuous process.
“We have numerous partners supporting us in the HIV/AIDS activity. We have the community RT where we have health workers go into the community to people’s houses to get them tested because we want to make sure that everyone in cross river state knows their status which is the theme of this year’s event.
“90% of the people in Calabar municipality know their HIV status and this is very remarkable and commendable.
“We are working to ensure that those who are infected should actually be able to have their medications.
“The Cross River state government is working with partners in giving out free HIV medications.
“We are the first state in Nigeria to start a test and treat where the health worker comes to your house and you are tested and if infected, you begin taking your medications immediately.
“So with these measures, and with the awareness created, there is no reason for us to have any new incidence of HIV in cross river state.
“We want to bring down the incidence of new infections to zero and of course we want to maintain the prevalence rate as it is because we cannot reduce it.
“If we reduce it, we want our people to die so we want to ensure that everyone living with the disease lives positively”, she said.
In her remarks, the wife of the governor of the state, Dr Linda Ayade emphasized the importance of knowing one’s HIV status stressing that it is no longer a death sentence.
Dr Ayade who stood in for her husband, Professor Ayade said the government has provided the drugs free of charge so that the people of the state can live long.
“Know your status unlike before used to be a death sentence but that is not what obtains today. Know your status is rather giving life because it helps one to plan his life further and our lives are in our hands.
“Everywhere you go, you have an opportunity to be tested, and when you are tested and are positive, the good news is that these drugs are provided free of charge.
“Every drug has been brought to the doorstep of cross Riverians to keep them alive, therefore, they have to seize the opportunity of life offered to them by the state government to get free medication. This will ensure that they keep the viral load in check and so can never die of HIV”, she said.
Also speaking, the Chairman of the Cross River State House of Assembly Committee on Health, Dr Ekpo Ekpo Bassey commended the government for sustaining the awareness, maintain that it will reduce the scourge to the barest minimum in the state.
He said the State House of Assembly will continue to support the state in the drive to contain the HIV/AIDS scourge in the state.
“We pledge to come up with all the enabling laws that will help to guarantee the success of government programmes in this regard and also ensure that the house approves to guarantee the success of the drive to contain the scourge.
“Poverty is linked with the prevalence and we will also ensure that we collaborate with the government to mitigate the scourge of poverty as this will also help check the prevalence of the menace”, he said.
In a related development, Dr Ayade has officially opened the cross river state Christmas village in Calabar to herald the Xmas festivities in the state.
The governor’s wife was accompanied by the commissioners of information, tourism, women affairs and also the SA to the governor on events management.
Speaking while opening the village, Ken Aklah, said the village will avail residents as well as visitors a place to ease themselves and unwind during the festive season.
He said the village helps in reducing crime as residents take advantage of the business opportunities available. He added that this year, the government has provided water, electricity, security among others for the welfare of visitors to the village.