By Oluwabukola Akanni
Ibadan – The National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) says 122 indigent People Living with HIV (PLHIV) and vulnerable indigent persons in Oyo State benefited from its just concluded skills acquisition programme.
The agency’s Director General, Dr Gambo Aliyu, stated this on Monday in Ibadan at the graduation ceremony and presentation of certificate to the beneficiaries of the empowerment and skills acquisition programme.
The 10-day training initiative taught the HIV vulnerable persons skills which included beautification, hairdressing, makeup, confectionery and body works.
Aliyu said that the exercise was organised to reduce new HIV infections in line with the UNAIDS strategy to get the HIV epidemic under control by 2030.
According to him, good means of livelihood for PLHIV translates to effective treatment which helps to suppress the viral load of the virus.
“We believe that empowering individuals with HIV will give them the opportunity to go to facilities and take medication and access the needed care.
“We know that we don’t see some persons living with HIV on our treatment list because they cannot even afford the cost of transportation to even go to the facilities and take the drugs.
“This skills acquisition and empowerment programme enables PLHIV to rise above the stigmatisation and discrimination that deny them from being gainfully employed within the society and seek the needed care.
“We started this last year with about 130 people in Kaduna and FCT, and now we are expanding it to 250 people in Ibadan and Kano.
“We are already seeing positive results and we will have good stories to tell by the end of the year,” he said.
Earlier in her presentation, Dr Yinka Falola-Anoemuah,the Lead, Gender Human Right and Care Services of NACA, said that poverty, gender inequality and disabilities were vulnerabilities which predisposed people to HIV infection.
According to Falola-Anoemuah, economic empowerment is a viable tool toward achieving SDGs and ending HIV epidemic.
“Vulnerable and indigent people are very critical if we must meet the global target to end HIV epidemic by 2030.
“It is important that we take care of holistic needs of PLHIV, People living with Disabilities and other vulnerables in our society.
“This empowerment programme presents us with the opportunity to meet their needs and support them to have good means of livelihood with which they would be able to take their drugs, live healthy life and have viral suppression.
“When they have skills with which they can fend and provide for themselves, they would most likely not engage in risky behavior that predisposes them to contracting HIV or spreading the virus to other people, ” she said.
In her remarks, the wife of the Oyo State governor, Mrs Tamunominini Makinde, lauded the efforts of NACA, describing it as a needed intervention.
Makinde, represented by the Executive Secretary, Oyo State Agency for the Control of AIDS, Dr Lanre Abas, said that empowerment would transform the lives of highly vulnerable persons in the state.
Mr Eniola Olamilekan, one of the beneficiaries who testified to how the skills acquisition programme they attended had impacted on their lives, urged NACA to expand the programme to accommodate more people in their communities.
” Without money in our pockets and food in our bellies, taking drugs on empty stomachs, even though it’s free, will not work,” he said.
NAN reports that the 122 benfeciaries were drawn from different support groups, including Association of Women living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, Association of Positive Youths Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS and People Living With Disability.