YOUTH INVOLVEMENT AND ENDING AIDS BY 2030
Youths make the system thrives. Their involvement in the ending AIDS agenda can happen with the active engagement of young people to help address the current gaps in reaching the 2030 target.
What are the grounds left to cover?
Youth voices and peer education are lethal weapons in to fight against the HIV epidemic. The young population is one of the most susceptible populations to HIV. They are also competent enough to make the right decisions to protect themselves when empowered with the necessary information and skills. Youths who engage in HIV work are able to educate, sensitize and motivate their peers to make safe choices. They are also important agents in the design and delivery of programs and services for their peers. In addition, their active engagement in the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of research and programs helps ensure the needs of young people are addressed.
Young people can lead. By working as part of policy decision-making bodies like technical working groups, and HIV prevention networks among others, they are able to collect and present data that represents the perspectives of young people. They can also advocate and mobilize their peers for change using media and channels that are most appropriate for the population.
Make young people the focus of HIV intervention programs. This will help countries gain the needed mileage to end the AIDS pandemic by 2030. Create training opportunities for young people. Meaningfully include young people in decision-making not only about themselves but about the country’s HIV responses. This helps ensure the sustainability of interventions.
When youths are empowered the global target of ending AIDS by 2030 will likely be achieved.
It spreads like wild fire, it’s destructive impact is heavily felt, lives have been lost, wrong decisions taken, it influences the mind causing fear and disbelief. It’s stronghold makes it difficult to discern and accept the truth, it keeps one far from reality. What could be behind all these you ask?
MYTHS!:falsehood and wrong information that’s the answer.
It is indeed a wonder how information reaches every nook and cranny and with technology, information is passed easily and quickly but in some settings where technology has not gained grounds, proper information dissemination is difficult. In such settings, there are some individuals who are sincerely wrong. These are people who spread the false information with the honest mindset of helping others but are unaware that they are causing more harm than good and this is because they lack proper enlightenment and also have no means of verifying the information they get for genuinety and accuracy.
As there are a lot of accurate facts about HIV/AIDS, so also there are myths. Alot of measures have been put in place to ensure people get the right knowledge about HIV but there are still some unreached population. Data has shown that there is a need for more pragmatic HIV/AIDS-related knowledge action plan to target to cover all age groups, all geo-political zones while paying close attention to the rural areas as this is where many of these myths exist.
Some examples of these myths are: Being HIV positive is a death sentence, HIV can spread through touch, HIV positive people can’t have children, HIV can be contacted from mosquitoes, If a couple has HIV, they don’t need to protect themselves. All these are false and far from the truth, they can only make matters worse. Spreading myths is very dangerous to the Society, it makes all the work put in to seem effortless and as waste of time.
Let’s strive to get the right knowledge, share this knowledge anywhere we find ourselves (homes, villages, communities, localities etc). Let’s also assist and cooperate with organized awareness schemes in the ways we can so the efforts put in won’t go to waste. Proper information dissemination begins with the conscious efforts we put in. Together we can reach the unreached.
-Ojobo Hossan Ene – 2022 LeNNiB Champion
Where is the light?, What else do I have to live for?, Who’s going to help me? Can I even get married? What if someone finds out? How do I face people? I’ll suffer in shame. I’m dying! These are the questions from an ignorant heart gripped by fear.
Yes, HIV/AIDS is real, you tested positive, there’s no cure yet, you’re afraid of the stigma from society, life is practically flashing before you, you no longer have a sense of purpose and so you gave up. Now is not the time to wallow in self pity and regret. Take a look at the bigger picture, there’s a whole lot ahead of you. Do not be misled by the notion; testing positive to HIV is the end of your life.
A lot of work has been and is still being done in managing HIV positive individuals. With modern medications, many persons with HIV live long healthy lives. Getting linked to medical care early, starting treatment with HIV medication called antiretroviral therapy, adhering to medications and staying in care can keep the virus under control and stop it from developing to AIDS. There may be no effective cure for HIV but with proper medical care, it can be controlled.
The amount of HIV in the blood is referred to as Viral Load, taking medications as prescribed will help reduce the viral load and this is termed Viral Suppression. Viral Suppression is said to be having less than 200 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood . The medications can reduce the viral load in such a way that a test can not detect it and this occurrence is known as undetectable viral load. Skipping medications would only mean giving the virus a chance to multiply and this can destabilize the immune system. Attaining and sustaining an undetectable viral load is the best way to stay healthy and protect others.
Also, having a good balanced diet, keeping fit with regular exercise helps to maintain the normal function of the immune system. It is important to develop a healthy, positive lifestyle as this will improve the quality of life ultimately.
In addition, being part of a support group greatly helps, you can share experiences, in a non- judgemental and safe environment. Group meetings provide education, understanding and hope. Meeting with other positives creates a platform of equity and a sense of belonging which brings about emotional support.
Other measures include: practicing safer sex, having adequate rest, avoiding drug abuse, avoiding smoking and drinking and counselling like what you’re having now.
Thank you for this wealth of knowledge her client said. She smiled and nodded in affirmation. She feels fulfilled, she came face to face with her fear of death, she overcame and is now helping other positives like herself to live a prolonged and fulfilled life.
Gaining the right knowledge is key but consistently practicing what you have learnt opens the door of possibilities.
HIV, as we know it, is a virus that damages the immune system and makes you more susceptible to other diseases. If left untreated, HIV can deteriorate to stage 3, an advanced stage known as AIDS.
A population that is mostly ignored in HIV/AIDS research and treatment is the transgender community. This is caused by stigmatisation, discrimination, economic vulnerability, etc.
However, before going further in this article, what makes up the transgender population?
Transgender is an umbrella word for persons whose gender identity is different from their assigned sex at birth.
Transgender is commonly abbreviated and known as trans.
For example, a transgender man was born with female sex organs but now identifies as male. On the other hand, a trans woman is an adult who was born male but now identifies as a female.
The majority of transgender people choose surgery or hormonal transition, or both, to change their appearance and match their gender identification.
What does the transgender population have to do with HIV/AIDS?
- In previous research, transgender persons are counted according to their biological sex, ignoring their identities and making them invisible to public health professionals and advocacy groups like NHVMAS working on HIV prevention, treatment, and care.
- Transgender persons suffer a higher incidence of bias in the health world. Examples of such bias are; doctors who don’t know how to care for transgender persons, refuse to treat them or abuse them. It also includes non-transgender-inclusive health insurance coverage that might put people at risk of contracting HIV.
- Due to social bias, especially in a country like Nigeria, transgender persons may experience higher unemployment, housing discrimination, and poverty, making testing and treatment more difficult to come by and afford. When that happens, they will not be able to know their HIV status and will fail to take the essential steps to prevent the virus from spreading to others.
- As I mentioned earlier, some transgender persons may choose injectable hormonal transitions to change their appearance to match their gender identification. However, due to the possibility of sharing needles or using dirty needles, transgender persons may be exposed to HIV transmission.
How do we prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS among the transgender population?
- If you’re transitioning using injectable hormonal medicines, make sure you use a fresh needle for each injection and don’t share needles.
- The danger of HIV transmission is reduced by limiting the number of sexual partners. This applies to both cisgender and transgender persons.
- The use of condoms greatly reduces the spread or transmission of HIV/AIDS. Taking PrEP before sexual contact can also reduce the risk of contracting HIV.
- Visit any credible hospital in your area to be tested, or reach out to us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
Visit the NHVMAS website if you’d like to learn more about what we do or how you can help stop HIV/AIDS from spreading in Nigeria. The change begins with you and me.
– Oluwaremilekun Adenike, 2022 LeNNiB Champion
Twice a week, I make this long journey from Ijegun to Ojodu Berger. If you are familiar with Lagos state, you will agree with me when I say that it’s not an easy feat.
On those days, the dash to get out of the house so that I can make it to class on time can be exhilarating, but I am not complaining.
In fact, I eagerly anticipate it.
It has broadened my knowledge of HIV prevention advocacy and all the work that goes into planning strategic and effective HIV prevention programs for various demographics.
From Mr. David (our very own prof, calmly dropping nuggets of wisdom and a continual reminder of the no lateness rule), to Mr. Tosin (our plagiarism catcher, always cool and calm, patiently listening to our countless arguments), then Mr. Richard (proper M & E, he is all about the numbers), Ms. Florita (ever-smiling, you can literally feel her passion every time she teaches and it is so infectious) and the lovely Ms. Olayide (so eloquent, I could listen to her speak all day), our coordinators and facilitators have been amazing.
My favorite part of the program has to be my fellow champions. I love how the class can be serious one minute and burst into a series of hot takes the very next. The conversations and the respectful differences in opinions are what I look forward to the most.
I would also like to not forget our yummy free lunches and wifi.
I feel lucky to be a part of this program, and I am excitedly looking forward to the next 5 months as a LeNNiB champion.
-Queen Uguoeru – 2022 LENNiB Champion