By: PATRICK TITUS, Uyo
Akwa Ibom State has evolved a new method known as ‘Test and Start Approach’ that would help in the state to ascertain accurate number of persons living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
The State Project Manager in the Agency for the control of AIDS, Mr. Nkereuwem Etok, made this known in Uyo, the state capital.
Etok spoke at a workshop on Sexual and Reproductive Health Training for Adolescent and Young Persons Counselor Testers organized by Society for Family Health in Uyo on Wednesday.
According to him, with the new method for HIV test, it would not be on selected persons, but would involve persons from all grades and sex.
He explained that, the result arrived at after samples and analyses have been carried out, represent the general population of the people in the state and not only pregnant women, as was the case before now.
“If we can sustain this tempo, if government keeps tackling HIV, the way it’s doing now, we know new infections would be a thing of the past. Studies have shown that if HIV positive person stays consistently on drugs for six months, likely the viral load will drop and the possibility of transmitting is reduce, so once the viral load drops to undetectable level, the person does not transmit again, that is why government has sign into the Test and Start Approach.”
He disagreed on a position which assumption that, the state ranked second in HIV prevalence in the country because of the method and target persons used in carrying out analysis then.
According to him, “The survey that was used to rank Akwa Ibom state as second in the country was what we called ANC surveillance study, it is known as Ante-Natal studies, it is done with pregnant women. This is what was used in all the states in the country.
“But the Governor came up and said, this is not correct, let us know what the prevalence rate in the general population is. Test babies, adult, men women, educated, uneducated all over the 31 local government areas”, he added.
He noted that the involvement of the international agencies in the area of sexual and productive health, HIV testing and counseling with the young people was a welcome development as this group of persons seems to have been neglected
He commended Society for Family Health for partnering with the state to create needed awareness especially among young girls and women in the country.
Earlier, the deputy programme director, Global Fund for Support programme, Society for Family Health, Mr. Segun Ojideji said, 38 young persons from Akwa Ibom, Federal Capital Territory and Oyo states would be trained on the new method of HIV testing.
He noted that Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) have varying Sexual and Reproductive needs, which have not been adequately addressed.
Ojideji said that the goal of the workshop was to enhance the knowledge, attitudes and skills of HTS counselors on Client-Centred service provision in order to promote reach and access to sexual reproductive health services.