By Progress Godfrey, Abuja
World Council of Churches, WCC, has tasked Religious leaders across Nigeria on HIV/AIDS treatment adherence to achieve the 95-95-95 Global Target towards ending AIDS by 2030.
WCC-EHAIA in collaboration with the Christian Council of Nigeria, CCN, with support from UNAIDS-PEPFAR, made this known in a communique issued after its 5-day consultative workshop in Abuja on Thursday, signed by a 6 members communique committee which includes Mr Tobias John from the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, NACA and five others.
Delivering the communique, the President of CCN, Most Rev Benebo Fugbara-Manuel stated that the workshop brought together 42 participants including: “Women, men, youth, people living with HIV, people living with disabilities, Christian religious leaders from CCN, tutors in theological institutions, members of the Nigerian Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Affected by HIV/AIDS (NINERELA+), Association of People with Disabilities, African Traditional Religious priests, National Agency for the Control of AIDS, the Federal Ministry of Health, and an Islamic group called Nasrul-Lahi-I-Fatih Society (NASFAT) and others.”
According to him, the workshop was declared open by the Honourable Minister of Health who was represented by Dr Akudo Ikpeazu, National Coordinator, National AIDS and STI Control Program of the Federal Ministry of Health. The honourable Minister, he said, stressed the role of faith-based organisations in achieving epidemic control now that the country’s progress is at respectively 90%, 93% and
86% of the Global Target of 95%, 95%, 95% toward ending AIDS by 2030.
Meanwhile, the UNAIDS Rep, Mr Gabriel Undelikwo said Nigeria has over 1.7 million people living with HIV, adding that more effort is being put to ensure that everyone who is supposed to be in treatment is on treatment.
He added that the partnership with WCC and CCN became important because of the role of religious leaders in the response to treatment adherence.
On the cure of HIV, he stated that with PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), HIV can be prevented.
“The partnership is premised on the fact that religious leaders and institutions play a very critical role in the response to HIV globally and we identified that it is very important to strengthen that role to help the country as much as possible to achieve epidemic control, to ensure that many people are enrolled for treatment and that we address the issues of stigma and discrimination.
“We have over 1.7 million people on treatment and serious efforts are being put to make sure that everybody who is supposed to be on treatment is on treatment.
“We have drugs that can prevent people from having HIV. We have PrEP which ensures that people at risk do not get infected by HIV,” he said.
Also speaking, the General Secretary of the CCN, Very Rev Dr Evans Onyemara expressed joy, having brought together key stakeholders for the course of the meeting.
He stressed the need for People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) to adhere to treatment which he said, is the miracle that God has given at a time like this.
Onyemara said, “We have been here for the past four days and by the grace of almighty God we have achieved the purpose of which we gathered. We are happy because we can bring in very key religious leaders in Christendom who came here and brainstormed from all member Churches of the Christian Council of Nigeria. We have about 17 member Churches, we have people living with HIV/AIDS joining us, we also have religious leaders living with HIV/AIDS also present.
“Oftentimes we hear some people talk about faith healing more than adhering to treatment. As much as we believe that God can heal, it is also important that we adhere to treatment (Antiretroviral Therapy) which is the miracle God has given us in a time like this.”
On her part, Ms Ayoko Bahun-Wilson who is the Regional Coordinator of WCC/EHAIA in West Africa said, “As religious leaders, we really need to take our responsibilities in promoting treatment adherence for People Living With HIV/AIDS in our communities.
“God heals, but he heals in his own time so we should not command God in terms of healing of HIV.”