By: Mayen Etim
KADUNA, North-West, Nigeria – An International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV/AIDS, (INERELA) Ambassador in Nigeria, Hajiya Aisha Umar, has said the disease is not a death sentence only if the carriers take their drugs religiously could live a healthy life.
She stated this during the 2019 World HIV/AIDS day campaign at the Womenhood School of Health Science organized by the Womenhood Foundation of Nigeria in Kaduna on Thursday.
The INERELA Ambassador in Nigeria, who disclosed her status during the campaign, said she has been on HIV/AIDS drugs for the past 19 years with a sound health.
According to her; “If I could be on HIV/AIDS drugs for 19 years and still looking healthy, fit as a fiddle, it means the disease is not a death sentence. Let’s not make HIV/AIDS a monster, that’s why I am here to sensitize you the young ones,” she said.
Hajiya Usman, who is also the INERELA representative in Kaduna state called on people to look into the impact of HIV/AIDS on the children, and women whom most of them are widows.
Narrating an incident that happened not too long ago, the Ambassador said that her organization gave a widow a grinding machine to trade with, but she could not made headway in the business, due to the refusal of her community members not to patronize her business.
“You know how gossip runs like wild fire; people disclosed her status to the whole community that she is HIV/AIDS positive.
“If anyone came to grind tomatoes or pepper at her business spot, it means there is no shop that opened for business that day in the whole community.
“Here is a widow who is also a carrier and is grossly stigmatized in her community. If she process groundnut or bean cakes for sell people will not buy from her, until the organization sets her up in that grinding business, yet the stigma followed her.
“What are we turning into? And here we have been telling people the modes of HIV/AIDS transmission. How can one be infected with the virus through business transaction with a carrier?” Umar queried.
She however appealed to wealthy individuals in the country, government at all levels, religious bodies and corporate organizations among others, to come to the aid of people living with HIV/AIDS as the impact of stigmatization has sent so many of them to their early graves.
“We have women who are positive and also their children. Do you know what they do to enable them take their drugs? In the morning when they want to take the drugs they boiled water and drink before taking the drugs because they don’t have food to eat,” she said.
Also speaking, President/Founder of Peace Revival Reconciliation Foundation of Nigeria, Pastor Yohannah Buru, urged Nigerians to be their brother’s keeper as enjoined by the two Holy books; Bible and Qur’an, rather than stigmatize people living with HIV/AIDS.
He said there were more deadly diseases people ignored, and rather bang on HIV/AIDS because of one thing, sex, as most people believed it is only through sex that one could contact the disease, hence, from religious perspective a carrier is then looked down on as not having lived up to moral standard, that’s why he/she is a victim.
According to him, when the disease was discovered and due to the stigma on the carriers, the Church took a stand that certain measures must be taken if not preventive, to reduce the spread of the disease and those found to be carriers should be specially catered for.
“The Church since then has been playing the role of counseling, encouraging, praying for the carriers, and also show them that they still have future ahead.
“The Church on its own tried to provide medical assistance to such victims in order to encourage and help them to continue their normal life. The Church has also provided machinery to encourage, protect, discourage premarital sex, and health-wise so that it would not be victimized or degraded by people who are victims of HIV/AIDS,” he said.
In her remarks, the Head of Department, Medical Record, Womenhood School of Health Sciences, Hajiya Fatty Abdulmumuni, said knowing one’s status will go a long to help reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS virus.
She called on people to get tested and not to discriminate against people living with the virus.