CU HOLDS SYMPOSIUM ON HIV/AIDS TO MARK INTERNATIONAL WORLD AIDS DAY
Since it was first discovered 26 years ago, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has remained the greatest health challenge the world has ever faced. Although cases of HIV/AIDS have been reported in all countries of the world, the burden of the pandemic is greatest in sub-Saharan Africa including Nigeria. That is why the international worlds AIDS day is significant to us at Covenant University.
Since it was first discovered 26 years ago, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has remained the greatest health challenge the world has ever faced. Although cases of HIV/AIDS have been reported in all countries of the world, the burden of the pandemic is greatest in sub-Saharan Africa including Nigeria. That is why the international worlds AIDS day is significant to us at Covenant University. As a University committed to raising a new generation of leaders, and considering the fact that HIV/AIDS is also a workplace issue, Covenant University believes that it is its responsibility to ensure that it addresses the HIV and AIDS issue on the campus. It is to this end that the University organized a symposium on the subject of HIV/AIDS on this year's international world AIDS day. 1st December is the day set aside for this annual event.
With over 6,000 students and faculty in a jam-parked auditorium, three presentations were made on different aspects of HIV/AIDS. The first presentation which was on the "HIV/AIDS situation in Nigeria" was made by the Head of Department of Sociology who also is the Chairman of the Taskforce on HIV/AIDS matters at Covenant University, Dr. Patrick A. Edewor. In his presentation, Dr. Edewor noted that over 20 million people, globally, have died from infection to date and that about 40 million are currently living with HIV, 80% of which are in sub-Saharan Africa. With regard to our country, it is estimated that 3.8 million Nigerians are living with the virus, the third largest number in the world. He also noted that 350,000-700,000 People Living With HIV and AIDS (PLWHA) require antiretroviral (ARV) therapy. Dr. Edewor observed that HIV prevalence rate was still as high as 4.4% in Nigeria with heterosexual transmission accounting for 80% of all infections. He concluded by drawing the attention of the audience to the dangers of casual sex and promiscuity.
The second presentation which was on the "The National Workplace Policy on HIV/AIDS" was given by Mr. Barnabas A. Ojo, the Ogun State Coordinator of Private Sector HIV/AIDS Outreach. He noted that HIV/AIDS is a workplace issue because about 90% of those infected are adults in their productive prime with those in the productive and reproductive age group of 15-49 yeas being mostly affected. Highlighting the negative socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS on the labour sector, households and the nation, he noted that the goal of the policy is to provide workers access to HIV/AIDS information and services to enable them take appropriate actions to protect themselves. It is also to manage and mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS within the workplaces as well as the elimination of stigma and discrimination based on real of perceived HIV status. He emphasized the need to implement the workplace policy on HIV/AIDS through prevention and through care, support and treatment of PLWHA.
The third presentation was on "Voluntary Confidential Counselling and Testing (VCCT)" and it was made by Mr. Abiodun H. Adebayo, former Coordinator of the President George Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and who is currently teaching Biochemistry at Covenant University. In his presentation, Mr. Adebayo noted that VCCT is an organized system of counselling and testing clients in order for them to find out whether or not they are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. VCCT services are always voluntary and confidential. VCCT is important because knowing one's status allows for change of behaviour. It also provides an opportunity for prevention, counselling and referral to care and support services as well as helping to reduce stigmatization by providing information about HIV in a neutral, non judgmental manner. The process involves pre-test counseling, testing, post-test counseling and follow up counselling.
In her remarks at the occasion, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Aize Obayan, thanked the speakers for enlightening the University community on the issue of HIV/AIDS by proving that AIDS is real. She expressed happiness that Covenant University was able to join the rest of the world to observe this year's International World AIDS Day, a practice that has been on for about 20 years now.
The Vice Chancellor said the University's connection with the International World AIDS Day was about furthering the platform for creating awareness about the AIDS pandemic. She said the University inline with its vision of raising a new generation of leaders for the African continent was committed to finding lasting solution to the endemic spread of the AIDS virus in the sub-Saharan Africa countries.
She said the University looked forward to embarking on research that would identify a known cure for the disease as it continue to provide regular avenue for enlightenment on the deadly scourge both for staff and staff as well as its immediate external community.
The Vice Chancellor, who announced that University would encourage voluntary confidential testing in line with NACA guideline among its faculty, staff and students, charged the singles and unmarried among the large audience, which included faculty, staff and student of the University to work towards driving leadership qualities that will lead to positively delivering the relevant behavioural and attitudinal disposition in this regards.
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