From Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha

No fewer than 100,000 residents of Onitsha, in Anambra State, recently got free screening and counseling in HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, courtesy Total Nigeria Plc and the Nigeria Business Against AIDS (NIBUCAA).

The companies have also trained 22 persons as peer educators on basic facts on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Managing Director of Total Nigeria Plc, Mr. Jean Phillipe-Torres and the Managing Director of Total Upstream Companies in Nigeria represented by the Executive Director (Strategy), Dr Jeff Nnamani, said the programme was to prevent and reduce the rate of HIV/AIDS in the state.

“Total Group is committed to positively impacting the lives of Nigerians through health education on preventive measure and awareness creation on HIV/AIDS management.

“Our fight against HIV/AIDS is a fight to protect our host communities, employees, families, organisations and society at large from the infection. This initiative has been adopted as an essential component of our group’s sustainable development policy and has been fully integrated into our global strategy.

“For us, the watchword is prevention which is far less expensive and less complicated than cure. Today, the only known cure for HIV/AIDS is prevention. In light of this, we are confident that with consistent efforts geared towards prevention, we can indeed have a near HIV/AIDS-free society,” he said.

The acting Executive Secretary, Nigerian Business Coalition Against AIDS (NiBUCCA), Mr. Gbenga Alabi, expressed happiness to have forged a synergy with Total Group since 2006 to help in achieving lofty goals for which the body was set up.

He said the world over, in the last three decades, has been faced with HIV/AIDS, a public health issue that has threatened and still threatening the fundamentals of human development, especially in developing countries, including Nigeria.

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Alabi noted that since the first incident of the pandemic, an estimated 78 million people have become infected with HIV and 35 million people dying of AIDS related illnesses, saying that the current HIV prevalence in Nigeria was 3.0 per cent.

“In 2015, an estimated 36.7 million were living with HIV (including 1.8 million children) with a global prevalence of 0.8 per cent. Unfortunately, a vast majority of this number live in low and middle income countries…

“This year’s project is keying into the United Nations 20-20-20 strategy aimed at providing opportunity for people to know their HIV status. You may not believe it, but around 40 per cent of the people with HIV are unaware of their infection. The only way to determine a person’s HIV status is for them to have an HIV test,” he stated.

The representative of the Petroleum Investment Management Service (NAPIMS), Ms. Mena Ogor commended Total for the project.

The Anambra State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Joe Akabuike thanked the company for the gesture, saying that state was ready to partner with any group or company to provide good health services to the people.

An HIV/AIDS campaigner and advocate for the prevention and person living with HIV, Mrs. Chizoba Godwin said she has been living with the virus for 21 years and has four children and husband who care for her.

She warned the youths against pre-martial/casual sex, but use condom if they could not abstain from sex, stressing that HIV/AIDS was no more death sentence as it used to be, urging people to “say no to stigmatization”.

The highpoint of the programme was the presentation of the 22-trained Peer Educators of the Total stations with certificates, cultural dances and drama presentation on HIV/AIDS.