Dr Habu Dahiru, the Gombe State Commissioner for Health, said no fewer than 486,000 people were tested for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) from January till date.
Dahiru disclosed this in Gombe on Wednesday while addressing newsmen as part of activities to mark the World AIDS Day with the theme “Equalize.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the World AIDS Day is commemorated every Dec. 1 to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS.
According to him, 300,000 of the state’s general population and 186,000 pregnant women have been tested within the last 11 months.
He said that the state government, in collaboration with partners, had been conducting free testing and treatment to combat the disease and sustain successes recorded in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The commissioner noted that Gov. Inuwa Yahaya had prioritised health sector, including HIV responses, by allocating additional funds, particularly to purchase HIV testing kits, drugs for the treatment of opportunistic infections and laboratory reagents.
“This has resulted to doubling the domestic HIV funding since the Yahaya-led administration assumed office in 2019.
“HIV testing is the first step in receiving treatment. When a person with HIV is diagnosed early, they start treatment right away; and if they stick to it, they will achieve viral suppression, making them less likely to transmit the virus.
“This will make a significant contribution to our state’s aim of eliminating AIDS by 2030. An estimated 43, 000 people are living with HIV in the state,’’ he said.
Dahiru further said that in spite of the giant strides recorded in the fight against the disease, there were still gaps that should be closed in order to reach the last mile.
“We noticed that the rate of new infections in the state is particularly high among young individuals between 15 and 24 years, with girls being particularly vulnerable.
“Women as a whole, remain disproportionately affected by HIV. The rate of mother-to-child transmission in the state is still unacceptably high,” he said.
The commissioner said that for Gombe to control the epidemic, the response should identify every person living with the virus, link and care for them.
This, he said, was to keep them in care until the virus was suppressed, thereby interrupting further transmission and controlling the epidemic.
He, therefore, advised residents to get tested for HIV because treatment was available and free.
The event is also to commemorate those who have lost their lives, and celebrate increased access to treatment and prevention services.
The day is also to help eradicate the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS, raise awareness of the connection between HIV and AIDS and to raise funds for prophylaxis that can prevent mother-to-child transmission. (NAN)