The Government of the United States has disclosed that 29,936 persons are living with HIV/AIDS in Osun State.
The US government through the Consul General, Will Stevens, made the disclosure as he called for intensified efforts in the fight against the virus the state.
Stevens called for the collaboration of the state government, medical practitioners and non-governmental organisations for the actualisation of an HIV/AIDS free state.
The US Consul General spoke during the official launching of the Osun State HIV Treatment Surge organised by Excellence Community Education Welfare Scheme (ECEWS) held at the State Secretariat in Osogbo, on Thursday.
He harped on the need to conduct more HIV tests in the state to reach out to those who do not know their status yet, adding that the purpose of the surge launch is to reach out to more people and ensure that carriers of the virus commence treatment immediately.
He decried that over 13,000 persons living with HIV/AIDS in the state are yet to commence treatment, calling for a massive outreach to them.
“We need a community of partnership. We need the government, police, civil societies and implementing partners. We need more hands in America to work together. It is going to take that combined effort to reach our most vulnerable citizens. Write those people who have been cast aside, those people who are often ignored and downtrodden and work together to find them.
“Make them feel safe, and make them feel like they can come and get tested, get treatment and spread the message that HIV is not a death sentence,” he said.
Head of Legal Service, ECWS Project Director of HIV treatment for Osun, Ekiti and Delta States, Dr Okezie Onyedinachi noted that only 16,000 have been put on treatment out of the over 29,000 persons living with HIV/AIDS.
Onyedinachi added that all of them must be reached before 2025, saying, “we have to do things differently, entering into the communities and providing opportunities for people to know their HIV status and get treatment across Osun State.”
Also speaking, the Osun State Coordinator of Network of People living with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), Roseline Awoyemi highlighted the efforts of the organisation and improvements recorded.
She said the community testers have been going to core places in the state to reach more people for tests and treatment.
In his response, Osun State Governor, Ademola Adeleke stated that thousands of people in the state have benefited from HIV testing and treatment services at no cost.
The governor who was represented by his deputy, Kola Adewusi said a leap in treatment coverage by 12% in the first five months of active surge implementation was recorded in the state adding that more people living with HIV can access the lifesaving antiretroviral drugs, prophylaxis, and other essential services they need to stay healthy and thrive.
“Through the ECEWS SPEED project, which is funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we have been able to scale up HIV testing and treatment services across the state, with a focus on equity, strengthening existing systems, building capacity, and promoting stakeholder involvement at all levels.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank our partners, including ECEWS, the CDC, and PEPFAR, for their continued support and collaboration in this effort. And I want to commend the health workers, community leaders, and other stakeholders who are working tirelessly to ensure that no person living with HIV in Osun state is left behind.
“I want to reaffirm our commitment to achieving an HIV-free society in Osun state. As a mark of further commitment , I accept my nomination as the “State Surge Champion”. I will proceed to also designate a state official to coordinate the activities of the project,” he said.