Women, under the auspices of G-7 Achievers Initiative, have urged the Federal Government to prevail on men, especially in the northern part of the country, to voluntarily surrender for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) screening.
They made this appeal yesterday in Abuja during a documentary screening on prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) organised by Aid Healthcare Foundation (AHF).
Co-ordinator of the Initiative, Hajia Rabi Dauda, said: “One of the most important challenges we are having in the North is the ability of the husbands to allow their wives go for HIV screening and ante-natal, especially in the communities where I come from, which is northern Nigeria.
“Even when the wife accepts to come for screening and test positive, the husbands do not want to come. So, it is difficult to continue with the treatment because if the wife and the child are now on treatment, the man is not on treatment and she is still married to the man.
According to Dauda, the Federal Government needs to intensify advocacy by engaging traditional rulers to mobilise men in their communities to come out for the screening.
“We need more advocacy. Let’s go to the grassroots; we don’t have to wait for them to come to us. We must go and mobilise them from the community, we must get the community leaders to talk to them to come out for screening and treatment.
“We have approached a community leader before, who assembled everybody in the community, we got everyone screened, those ones that tested positive are now on treatment,” she said.
Also speaking, the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) Control Officer of the National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA), Dr. Okorie Gideon, disclosed that the agency was reaching out to men, community and religious leaders to ensure that they understand and make sure that every pregnant woman is tested for HIV.
According to Gideon: “Currently, efforts were being made by the government to make sure that babies are delivered safely and mothers are healthy. We are increasing our efforts to get to these women wherever they are because we already have a tool that is working effectively.
“Advocacy is also going on to reduce the barriers that prevent people from coming to access services at the facilities, we are firing at all cylinders to ensure that we conquer the communities to ensure that every pregnant woman is offered HIV testing and those who test positive are enrolled into PMTC.
“Rivers State has declared user-free on health care facilities for pregnant women, we want all states to emulate the state and make their own free, we are also working on procuring test kit to make sure everybody is tested.”
In the same vein, AHF Advocacy Manager, Steve Aborisade, said that the documentary was created to help create demand for PMTCT services and to empower women, while drawing attention to the gaps yet to be filled.“No child deserves to be born HIV positive in Nigeria again,” Aborisade added.