Project Manager, Edo State Agency for the Control of HIV and AIDs (EDO-SACA), Dr Marietu Binkola, on Sunday said 16,000 people in the state were living with HIV virus.
Binkola made this known at a forum to mark the 2016 International Aids Candle Light Memorial held in Auchi, Etsako West Local Government Area of the state.
The International Aids Candlelight Memorial is celebrated to remember all those who had died of HIV and AIDS. During the ceremony, names of the deceased are usually read out by a cross section of communities, families and partners.
“We have about 16,000 people living with HIV and AIDS in Edo state. The state government is committed to the funding of HIV and AIDs and to see that this figure is reduced to the barest minimum,” she said.
Binkola said that articulated vehicles parks were considered some of the “hot spots” where drivers engaged in high act of immorality, adding that the agency would intensify campaign on the disease.
She said billboards on HIV would be sited at every of such parks in the state to further sensitise people to the scourge.
“All kinds of people stand at a disadvantage on the question of HIV and AIDS; so, what we do is we sensitize, we distribute condoms.
“HIV testing and counselling is free and we teach them how to use it and use it properly,” she said.
Binkola called for attitudinal change towards the disease and advised the public to stop discrimination against those living with the disease in order to reduce its spread.
Earlier, Dr Bright Oniovokukor, Coordinator, Civil Society for HIV/AIDs in Nigeria (CISHAN), Edo chapter, said that the forum would bring renewed international attention to the importance of safer s*x.
Oniovokukor said that the forum would also send positive message to young, sexually active people that using condoms consistently was necessary in averting contacting the disease.
“The actual aim of the programme is to remember those who have died from HIV and Aids and also to encourage those who are living with the virus to live positively.
“The programme would help to create awareness that would help prevention of HIV and AIDS in our society,” he said.
The coordinator said that there was need for governments and relevant agencies to intensify awareness on the disease.
“Many people do not still have information about HIV and AIDS at the moment and this has to be done because some of our adolescents are migrating into the youthful and risky age group.
“There is need to keep the awareness very high so as to prevent the spread of HIV virus,” he said.