Amid numerous precautionary measures canvassed to contain the dreaded corona virus, the Honourable Commissioner for Environment and Petroleum Resources in Akwa Ibom State, Dr. (Barr.) Ekong Sampson, has called on the people of the state to pay serious attention to personal hygiene and environmental cleanliness, even as the state government is set to clamp down on illegal felling of trees in city centres.
With a staggering figure of 218,020 reported cases of HIV/AIDS in Akwa Ibom State, the people of the state sure have reasons to be bothered. With this figure, the Nigerian HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS) has in its latest report published in March, 2019, declared Akwa Ibom as the state with the highest prevalence rate of people living with HIV AIDS in Nigeria.
While many argued that the figure is nothing but alarming, a lot more said the rating was rather political and not worth bothering over.
However, lots of institutions, agencies and non-governmental organizations had swung into action to re-awaken campaigns to fight the dreaded virus, which has caused monumental damages to the socio-economic life of the people.
One of such institutions is the Applicants Welfare and Development Centre (AWANDEC) which has on Wednesday, August 7, 2019 organized a one-day special conference to address the challenges of development in the face of reported HIV/AIDS prevalence in the state.
HIV/AIDS is predominantly a sexually transmitted disease that targets and alters the body’s immune system, thereby increasing the risk of contracting other infections and diseases. Over the years, the virus has challenged the productive part of our population and has in no small measure rendered ineffective those infected with the virus, as it poses a huge burden to the health system.
It was the recognition of this threat that gave room for the enlightenment campaign at Barth Ebong Hall, located within the Annex Campus of the University of Uyo. Resource persons including Prof. Ambily Etekpe used the avenue to enlighten the participants of the dangers of unruly behaviours which can predispose them to HIV/AIDS.
The Professor of Political Science who lectures at the Niger Delta University, Bayelsa State, beckoned on citizens to exhibit attitudinal change as a panacea to the spread of the virus in the state and beyond.
Resource persons at the event which attracted dignitaries from the state and beyond maintained that the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Akwa Ibom in particular and the country at large has impacted negatively on the economic fortunes of the people, hence the need for collective efforts to fight the dreaded virus.
Prof. Etekpe who was the keynote speaker, had dealt on central theme bordering on the challenges and negative impact the virus has on Nigerians and people in the sub-saharan region. He implored stakeholders to build a strategic plan to stop the spread of the virus.
Speaking on the topic: “HIV/AIDS in Nigeria and the Challenges of Productivity in Akwa Ibom State”, Etekpe made reference to statistics from NAIIS which indicates that about 1.9 million Nigerians are currently living with the virus, out of which Akwa Ibom accounts for about 218,020 cases, representing 5.5 percent of persons living HIV in Nigeria.
By this figure, Akwa Ibom is presently the state with the highest number of people with HIV/AIDS prevalence in Nigeria, followed by Benue State with about 5.3%, thereby compromising with the people’s level of productivity.
Mrs. Bernadette Ekanem who spoke on The Challenges of Food Security in Akwa Ibom State, explained that the economic fortunes of the state will be affected given the proportion of adults infected with the virus, adding that the situation, if not controlled, could cause food insecurity. Ekanem who is one of the directors in the centre, appealed to youths in the state to be creative and useful to themselves rather than indulge in acts capable of jeopardizing their future.
The challenge of HIV/AIDS in Akwa Ibom State and The Role of Private Medical Practitioners and The Way Out by Dr. E.S. Udiminue, The Role and Strategies of Development Partners in Saving the Lives of Akwa Ibom Children from the Stronghold of HIV/AIDS by Mrs. Uduak Umoh were among other papers presented at the event.
The event equally provided organizers, the opportunity to honour individuals and heads of organizations that have contributed meaningfully to advancement of humanity and the society at large.
Applauding management of Applicants Welfare and Development Centre (AWANDEC), Pastor Nicholas Ekarika who chaired the event called on the public to imbibe biblical ethics and live by the dictates of their Creator as a panacea to AIDS, among other diseases plaguing the people.
Welcoming the guests, the Executive Chairman of AWANDEC, Dr. Ekanem Inyang said the enlightenment seminar was meant to reawaken the campaign against the prevalence of AIDS as well as seek collaborative efforts to combat the virus.
He advocated for enhanced funding and renewed vigour from relevant agencies to check the burden that HIV/AIDS has placed on the society.
Some of those honoured for contributing meaningfully to the welfare of orphans and vulnerable children in the state were Obong Akpan Ned Udom, a politician from Etinan L.G.A., Dr. Roberta Edem, a one-time Secretary of Uyo L.G.A., Bishop Andrew Uwnata, Chairman, State Assembly Service Commission and Mrs. Bernadette Udoekwere, the Desk Officer in-charge of OVC in the state Ministry of Women Affairs.