HIV/AIDS NGO to break hurdles that deny women access to services

An NGO is raising public awareness especially for women on the need to avail themselves and get tested for HIV/AIDS.

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AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), an NGO, has embarked on an HIV and AIDS testing campaign to break societal, religious and cultural hurdles that deny women access to HIV and AIDs services.

Dr Kema Onu, Site Coordinator of the Foundation, made the call during its community based HIV and AIDs testing campaign on Tuesday in Abuja

Onu said the event was aimed at raising public awareness especially for women on the need to avail themselves and get tested as the prevalence rate was higher in women than men.

He said testing the key population of women and young girls was very important as it was the starting point in stopping and reversing the trend of HIV and AIDS in the country.

“Statistics has shown that community based testing is about the most effective way of getting people tested, because people hardly show up at the facilities.

“However, we experience gender challenges as most women who are more positive do not come out to get tested, and this is caused by societal perceptions, cultural and religious barriers.

“In AHF, we are determined to raise awareness and ensure that such barriers that limit them are broken so that women have more access to reproductive health services,’’ he said.

Onu urged men to allow their spouses and partners get tested, as such would increase testing the high risk population and those tested positive would be linked to care.

He said the society also perceives women who avail themselves for testing has been promiscuous, adding that such stigmatisation should be discouraged.

Onu explained that women were more likely to test positive and among the high risk population because of their biological anatomy of an open genital organ that makes transmission higher.

“Women are also more likely to have sex with elderly men, and such men would have had several unprotected sex with other women and may likely be positive.

“Women are likely to trade sex for money and are more likely to be raped and such cases are usually not reported.

“Some cultural issues occur when women loss their spouses and they are forced to marry from the husband’s family in respective of his status,’’ Onu added.

He noted that most Nigerians were living in a presumptive HIV negative state, saying that about 3.4 million Nigerians were living with the scourge and about 55 per cent do not know their status.

Mrs Christie Awunor, the Prevention Coordinator AHF, further advised Nigerians to avail themselves for testing after every six months, if exposed to the risk of infection.

Awonor said the foundation also conducted community outreach in the FCT and six communities on HIV and AIDS, counselling, testing, sensitisation and awareness campaign

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