Today as we mark World Aids Day, we stand in solidarity with all those affected by the virus and their families. We should not stop our efforts to end HIV/AIDS through prevention and education until it is over. We also need to continue to spread awareness against HIV stigma. It must stop. Those infected and affected by HIV are all humans and deserve the love and compassion we all do. 3.5 million people in Nigeria are HIV positive, and according to the World Health Organization globally only 57% know their status which is even less in Nigeria, we need to work together to ensure everyone has access to live healthier and longer lives in our country, through better access and assistance to antiretroviral drugs, education on prevention of spread, especially from mother to child, and counselling and psycho-social support for those affected by HIV and their families.
To mark the day, my organisation, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa held a joint World Aids Day event with the ONE campaign ,Connected Development, the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria and Ummah Support Initiative and the Nigeria Medical Association in Abuja, Nigeria. The guest of honour was the Senate President, my husband, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki. This event was a tremendous success and will hopefully keep the international and national momentum alive for raising awareness on HIV/AIDS virus.
As Founder-President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, my organisation and I, since 2003 have worked to refine our interventions to deliver successful solutions for people living with HIV/AIDS, such as our client-held Personal Health Records (PHRs), which can help in the Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission (eMTCT) of HIV.
To empower people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and curb the spread of the disease, the Foundation established the Alaafia Universal Health Coverage Fund (AUHCF) in partnership with Hygeia Community Health Care - a local health insurance provider - and the PharmAccess Foundation, to fund the insurance premiums of 5,000 people each year – including pregnant women, children under five, adolescent girls, people living with HIV and AIDS, and the elderly – in line with the guiding principles of universal health coverage (UHC). Absorbing the Wellbeing Foundation Africa’s original PLWHA frontline Positive Lifeline Programme which helped thousands of lives affected by HIV/AIDS for twelve years by providing counselling, home-visits and direct healthcare for persons living with HIV/AIDS in north-central Nigeria, the Alaafia Universal Health Coverage Fund (AUHCF) continues to play a key role in discovering incidences of PLWHA, while helping them access adequate therapy and much needed medical attention.
As AUHCF ends on Saturday 31st December, our focused strategy on midwives as the messenger of care increases; and our prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) is increasingly focused through our Mamacare Antenatal and Postnatal Education programme in Nigeria, where mothers are taught by our midwives the importance of early testing for eMTCT. Our classes have reached over 200,000 expectant and new mothers in 17 healthcare facilities (HCFs) and its surrounding communities, spread around Lagos State, Kwara State, and the FCT Abuja.
Regionally and globally, we are also reaching out to adolescents who are HIV positive and expanding our PMTCT advocacy across Africa through our current global partnerships and forging new partnerships which will be announced in the New Year. We remain committed to prevention and education and will continue our advocacy and assistance for all affected by HIV until it is over, globally and locally.