By Ruth Oketunde
Abuja – The Network of People living with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN) on Thursday joined the international community to commemorate the 35th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial to remember its lost members.
The National coordinator of NEPWHAN, Mr Victor Omoshehin, who said this at the event in Abuja, said the memorial was to remember their lost ones who died of HIV/AIDS.
The theme of the 2018 memorial is “Reflecting on our past and preparing for our future’’.
Omoshehin explained that the candlelight was held every year to create awareness and stand up for people living with HIV and AIDS.
“HIV epidemics continue to shine a light on the injustices and exclusion in our societies, while opening space for continued solidarity and resistance by all our beloved communities.
“It includes gay men, transgender people, sex workers, people who use drugs, women, girls, adolescent and children.
“The memorial asks us to work together, now more than ever, to sustain, strengthen and revitalise our national response to HIV,’’ he said.
Omoshehin, however, decried the user fee which ranges from N2,000 to N10,000 in order to access their anti-retroviral treatment in different health institutions in the country.
He added that the user fee had continued to remain a major challenge among people living with HIV/AIDS as most of them could not afford the fee.
He, however, commended the World Health Organisation and the Federal Ministry of Health for introducing ‘test and start’ policy aimed at ensuring that people living with HIV were enrolled on treatment.
He urged the government to invest more in the health sector as most of the donor agencies were reducing their investment in the country.
Dr Richard Amenyah, UNAIDS Adviser, said that the country’s national health insurance scheme was needed to work well for all to participate.
Amenyah said that UNAIDS would continue to advocate for all citizens of the country to be included in the scheme to enable them have free access to treatment without barrier.
Mr Isah Mohammed, the National Coordinator, Association of Positive Youths living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (APYIN), added that people living with HIV should continue to be industrious and learn new skills.
Mohammmed said that even though they were still stigmatised from getting jobs, they should stand and get themselves busy as the key to unlock their problem. (NAN)