Health: Total, partners provide free HIV testing in Ogun

Total Plc and its subsidiaries have completed an expanded HIV/AIDS preventive awareness project, which included free testing, in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State.

At the close of the event, which lasted more than a week, Mrs. Bunmi Popoola-Mordi,  executive general manager, Total Country Services, warned Nigerians to stop stigmatising people living with HIV/AIDS, stressing that negative attitude towards PLWAs can reverse the gains already recorded in the fight against the spread of the deadly virus.

She urged employers to create workplace policy that would favour people living with HIV/AIDS. “Stop stigmatising people living with HIV/AIDS; they can have a long successful life notwithstanding their HIV/AIDS status. They can play a very good role in society. Workplace policy that will support people living with HIV/AIDS should be encouraged. We are an organisation that believes strongly that people should not be stigmatised,” she said.

The Total Plc boss said the free HIV testing had taken place in more than 20 states of the federation, adding that the choice of Ijebu Ode was as a result of the high prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in the state. “Our fight against HIV/AIDS is a fight to protect our host communities, employees, families, organisatons, and society at large from the infection.  For us, the watchword is prevention, which is far less expensive and less complicated than cure. In the light of this, we are confident that with consistent efforts geared towards prevention, we can indeed have a near HIV/AIDS-free society,” Popoola Mordi said.

Also, Gbenga Alabi, executive secretary, Nigerian Business Coalition Against Aids (NIBUCAA), said the fight against HIV/AIDS cannot be left to the government alone, stressing that the business community too has a role to play in the struggle to contain the spread of new infections and reduce the burden and impact of the disease.

He disclosed that no fewer than 91 people tested positive in the free HIV/AIDS testing conducted from July 8 to July 17 in the state.

The project was a collaboration of the Total Upstream Companies in Nigeria and Total Nigeria Plc in partnership with NIBUCAA. He explained to the audience that HIV is a virus that damages the immune system, which without treatment, a person can develop AIDS. Ways of getting infected are through blood products (unclean needles or unscreened blood), having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected person or by an infected mother to baby by pregnancy, among others.

“From our records, as at Wednesday, July 17, this year, 10,963 people in Ogun have benefited from the testing services which started on July 8. Of these, we have 4,007 males and 6, 956 females; we have a total of 91 people who tested positive,” he disclosed.

The NIBUCAA executive secretary said this indicator called for intensified efforts to create more awareness on HIV/AIDS. “The provision of HIV testing services was made possible by synergy efforts with the Ogun State Agency for the Control of AIDS (OGSACA). We came around to do a NEEDS assessment and from the assessment, it was obvious that we need to reach out to all the local governments in Ogun. So, what we are doing in Ogun is based on the baseline survey which has been done under the Nigeria National HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS),” he said.

According to Popoola-Mordi, who also represented Imrane Barry, managing director, Total Nigeria Plc, HIV/AIDS has threatened human existence, especially in developing countries in Africa.

She cited the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) fact sheet 2018, which claimed that approximately 940,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2018. She said the Total Group in Nigeria have over the past 13 years, consistently made concerted efforts under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) initiative at responding to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Nigeria.

“Total is committed to positively impacting the lives of Nigerians through health education on preventive measures and awareness creation on HIV/AIDS management. This project is being implemented in technical partnership with the Nigerian Business Coalition Against AIDS (NIBUCAA), the voice of the Private Sector response to HIV/AIDS. The free HIV Voluntary Counselling/Testing Service teams have been deployed to various locations in Abeokuta and Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State since July 8 ending on July 20.

“Our fight against HIV/AIDS is a fight to protect our host communities, employees, families and organisations and society at large from the infection. Today, the only known cure for HIV/AIDS is prevention. In the light of this, we are confident that with consistent efforts geared toward prevention, we can indeed have a near HIV/AIDS free society. For us, the watchword is prevention, which is far less expensive and less complicated than cure,’’ she said.


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