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Education essential to eliminate HIV , says Obasanjo-Bello


hiv_aidsIN a move to initiate public awareness on HIV prevention, the Chairperson, Senate Committee on Health, Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, has said the impact of culture was one of the major factors militating against the reduction of the disease among women and girls in Nigeria.

She stressed that it is only through formal education that the key to elimination of cultural practices against women could be realised.

Obasanjo-Bello made the call in Abuja at the weekend as the co-chair of a roundtable session on HIV Prevention and Cultural Challenges for Women in Nigeria organised by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The objective of the session was to present the findings from a desk review into the impact of culture on HIV prevention among women and girls in Nigeria.

The session also aimed to initiate public discourse on cultural issues that influence the uptake of Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) services and involvement of men in PMTCT specifically and in reproductive healthcare services in the country.

Also, the UNIFEM Research Consultant on Gender and HIV, Dennis Ityavyar, in his presentation, outlined the status of women within the national response and highlighted the key determinants of HIV transmission in the context of culture and socio-economic issues.

It was also noted by the Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (Centre LSD), Dr. Otive Igbuzo, that “since reports indicate that men are the drivers of the epidemic, their involvement will bring about the required support and change in gender relations required to further reduce the epidemic in Nigeria”.

The UNIFEM’s Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Cecile Mukarubuga, in her presentation also acknowledged that “patriarchal culture in the African society has heavily influenced the legal systems, governance structures and value systems, which uphold the unequal status of girls and women and fuel the spread of HIV”.

She maintained that for interventions to be more successful, programmes should go beyond just information and condom distribution to addressing the underlying social, cultural and economic issues that infringe on women’s rights.

She recommended that government, development partners and civil society organisations, should adopt a multi-sectoral framework that addresses not only medical, but also structural and socio-cultural factors that constrain individual actions.

Meanwhile, against the backdrop of inflated overhead cost and inappropriate logistics incurred by some anti-HIV/AIDS crusaders, the Federal Government has warned that it will not hesitate to probe perpetrators of such illegal act.

To further allay the fears of donor-agencies, the Federal Government, through the House of Representatives, has assured on implementing measures that will promote transparency and accountability of such monetary allocations.

Making these proclamation at the recently concluded 5th National Conference on HIV/AIDS in Abuja, chairman of the occasion and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, who was represented by the Chairman, House Committee on HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis, Dr. Oluwole Olakunde, noted that “most intervention funds were being spent on irrelevant logistics and bloated overheads that have little to do with essential anti-AIDS crusade.

Warning that stringent consequences awaited offenders, he reiterated that “if the under-performance in the national intervention efforts persists, the House will not hesitate to convoke an investigative hearing on the administration of the huge funds received over the years by the relevant stakeholders”.

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