By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
Jane Adams (not real name), is a stripper. She works in a weekend night club at One man village, Karu Local Government Area of Nassarawa State.
During every performance, she gets tips (money) from men for a wonderful display. After her show, some of the men often take her home with them for additional fee.
Aside stripping at the weekends, she visits hotels around on daily basis and entertain men at her house for a higher fee.
She told our reporter that her poor educational background and lack of parental care were responsible for her unholy venture.
Speaking on her HIV status, Jane said she had self testing last year and the result was negative. She said she cannot withstand long counseling session at the hospital.
“The last time I went to the hospital, they kept us for long hours lecturing about patience and the need to understand what HIV is all about and how it can be transmitted. For me, I just want to know if I am negative or positive and not to hear the long stories. I don’t want anyone to see me there because some of my clients work at the hospital.
“ I am not sure I have HIV. I use condom on daily basis to ensure that I don’t contract the virus. Girls must hustle in this town and we are trying to stay safe”.
But a Pharmacist, from Pharmaceutical Services Department, Anti Retroviral Therapy Clinic, Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Keffi, John Uwaya, said condoms were not originally designed for prevention of HIV/AIDS.
“They were designed as a means of contraception. But when we talk about the usage for prevention of HIV/AIDS then the correct usage must be applied. Condom usage etiquette must be applied; that is, used It has to be properly worn and properly removed. Also, if there is a crack or any damage, it means that the condom is not safe. Therefore, the best way to prevention is drugs and abstinence.”
He called on Nigerians to perish the idea of self testing and visit medical facilities for their HIV testing.
“ The idea of self testing was modeled after malaria self testing where people know their malaria status. Lets also know that the self testing is subjective, a confirmatory test is needed to ascertain the actual status of a person.
“To carry out self testing effectively, people need training on how to collect the samples. The plan was to develop a less invasive kit because people were afraid of pricking. That was why the use of saliva was developed. But the process of collecting indicates that the skin should not be broken. If it is mixed with blood, it will affect the result.
“Most people don’t adhear to instruction. Some of them hardly read to know the various steps to follow- because of these challenges, most of the results of self testing are not accurate. The instructions on the equipment also said that the test is not absolute until a confirmatory test is carried out to ascertain the actual result. So if you know you are going for a confirmatory test to be sure, why not begin the process from the beginning. Also, if a test is carried out during a window period it will not indicate whether one has the virus or not. We need to be very careful about self testing simply because we want to people to see us.
He added that it is very hard to track HIV/AIDS patients who conducted self testing and don’t return to the hospital to be added on the data when their results are positive.
“Many people might get tested and remain undisclosed. This will not add to the data because we can’t track the person. It has also added to the pool of transmitters and suicidal at times.”
Speaking further, Uwaya said the whole idea was championed by donor agencies. “But the worry is that this might not continue if the funding stops. It happened with malaria funding and could happen to this as well.
“Almost 90 percent of the programme is donor driven. We have not developed capacity, even drugs are being imported. Without all these, we won’t even know the status of people.”
Meanwhile, a Consultant Clinical Microbiologist with the National Hospital, Abuja, Dr Philip Nwajiobi-Princewill, who spoke during a one–day intensive training on HIV Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PREP) for journalists said the development of self testing kits is a new innovation in the prevention and treatment of HIV.
“We’re doing well with regards to HIV positive patients assessing drugs. Over time, we had challenges with regards to stigmatisation, but the development of self testing kits has helped a lot. Presently, you can test yourself to know your status; without going to queue in hospitals. The advantages of self testing kits are so numerous to mention, including anonymity, easier for people to use, being a master of your own, among others.
“Nevertheless, you will still need to go to the hospital for a confirmatory test even if you test positive or negative while using the test kit. The major disadvantage is that we don’t know how couples will react when a partner tests positive while using the test kit. However, the self test is not confirmatory, but just for you to be guided; in order to take steps in visiting the hospital for confirmation as some may still test negative in the hospital, even after testing positive while using the test kit,” he said.
At the workshop sponsored by Internews Europe, the Lead Trainer, Anselm Okolo, said issues of HIV has taken the back burner in new reportage.
He said: “The media played a great role in ensuring that HIV positive people are no longer stigmatised. Unlike before, you would see people being afraid of disclosing their HIV status; as a result of stigmatisation and the misconceptions associated with the virus, especially the perception that it is a death sentence. However, the media changed all that with the right reportage.
“Unfortunately, the issue of HIV appears to be neglected by media houses nowadays. In fact, if you check the Nigerian media, be it TV, radio, print or online newspapers, you may not read a single story on HIV in a whole month. Does it mean that HIV is no longer existing in Nigeria? Of course, the answer is ‘no’ because the virus is still very much with us. So, reviving interest in the existence of HIV in Nigeria should be the focus of journalists.”