HIFASS-LOPIN 3, a five-year USAID funded project joined the Cross River State Agency for the Control of AIDS and other organizations in the state to mark the World AIDS DAY celebration from the 30th of November to the 2nd of December, 2018.
The global event which is usually celebrated on the 1st of December was kicked off in the state with a Jumaat service on the 30th of November at the Navy Mosque, Calabar. Activities there included a sensitization speech by Shabam Abdullahi, a member of the state inter-faith coalition and HIV Testing and Counselling Services. At 6pm, it was followed by a candle light procession to remember those who have died as a result of the virus. The procession began at the Barracks Road office of the State Agency for the Control of AIDS through the 11:11 round about, Cultural center and back to the office where speeches were made by stakeholders and HIV program implementing organizations in the state.
HIFASS-LOPIN 3 Community Mobilization and Public/Private Partnership Advisor (CMPPPA), Obase-Okanke Ofem Willie, played host at the candle light event and also spoke on behalf of the organization, appreciating stakeholders and partners for the work so far.
On the 1st, a solidarity walk was flagged off at about 9am by the wife of the state governor, Dr. Linda Ayade at the Rabana roundabout and ended at the Calabar Municipality Local Government Area secretariat. Stakeholders and HIV program implementing organizations in the state participated in the walk which lasted for approximately one hour, after which the Director General, State Agency for the Control of AIDS (SACA), gave the welcome remarks, the Commissioner for Health gave the keynote address, goodwill messages were received from Implementing Partners; and after a few presentations, the First Lady made her speech.
In her remarks, DG SACA enjoined all present to intensify the fight against HIV/AIDS. She was glad about the fact that the state has provided an enabling environment for donors to work but noted that ownership needs to be taken at the state and LGA levels “for sustainability”. She commended HIFASS-LOPIN 3 and other partners for their work in the state.
The Commisioner Ministry of Health listed abstinence, mutual fidelity as well as correct and consistent use of condoms as ways to prevent HIV.
HIFASS-LOPIN 3’s Deputy Chief of Party, Dr. Al’Rashid Usman, speaking on behalf of the project, thanked the state for the enabling environment, briefly told of the project achievements so far and stated that “we can control HIV/AIDS; if Nigeria controlled Ebola, it is possible”.
In her speech, the First Lady thanked partners for their role in combating HIV in the state. She also reiterated the words of Dr. Usman that the goal is to completely eradicate HIV. She enjoined all present to take advantage of the free testing and treatment available. She said “take your life and protect it, not just for yourself…but for humanity. If you do not know your status, it means you are careless with your life. If you do not know your status, you plan to die”
Her speech brought the event to a close at about 11.30 am and organizations began testing and counselling services. Since the venue used is the same allotted for the Calabar Christmas Village which was opened on the same day and will be closed at the end of the year, testers and mobilizers from HIFASS-LOPIN 3 will be stationed there for at least 15 days for HIV Testing and Counselling Services (HTS).
Finally, on Sunday the 2nd of December, a thanksgiving service was held at the ECWA Church, Henshaw town, Calabar to thank God for the World AIDS Day celebration. Again HIFASS-LOPIN 3 CMPPPA, Obase-Okanke Ofem gave a sensitization speech on behalf of SACA and all the implementing organizations in the state on prevention and also encouraged them to get tested. The event was rounded off with HTS at the church venue.
Figure 1. At the candle light event.