Reiterated by the Representative of NW Governor, Lanyuy Harry Ngwanyi, to some peer educators, youths, CSOs, NGOs, CBOs, government authorities,as well as media practitioners; during the launching ceremony of AIDS Free Holidays 2019 under the theme: “Android Generation, Click on HIV Testing” held on Friday 23rd August 2019, at the conference hall of the North West Regional Fund for health promotion in Bamenda.
The 17th Edition of AIDS Free Holidays program comes at a time when indicators are showing globally that AIDS related deaths are declining rapidly in most age groups except with adolescents. According to Lanyuy Harry Ngwanyi, who doubles as the Secretary General at the North West Governor’s Office, the program is an opportunity and a forum for youths to learn skills that will enable them to confront the HIV pandemic and contribute in eradicating HIV.
The Regional Coordinator of the North West Regional Technical Group (RTG) for the Fight against HIV/AIDS, Dr Tayong Gladys says, “Eradication doesn’t mean that we will get rid of PLWHIV. We want to stop new infections, while keeping all those who are infected alive. We don’t want any person living with HIV to die. That is why we are encouraging all those living with HIV to take lifesaving antiretroviral therapy.”
During the training, 117 youth peer educators were given essential and key messages to use on the field to sensitize their peers. On their third week on the field, these peer educators are already carrying out inter-personal communication and group talk on HIV prevention and treatment.
“The goal is to eliminate HIV pandemic. This is by ensuring that at least 90% of those living with HIV know their status, placing at least 90% of those that are HIV positive on treatment and also ensuring viral suppression for at least 90% of those who are receiving treatment”, North West Regional Delegate of Public Health, Dr. Kingsley Che Soh.
The ceremony which was highly attended was characterized by some interesting and educative sketches, poems and other presentations by peer educators on HIV/AIDS amongst adolescents, youths and married couples.
Some factors that expose youths to HIV were enumerated; Youths fail to abstain from premarital relationships, they are prone to having multiple partners, intergenerational relationships, sexual cohesion, inability to negotiate for safe relationships and transactional relationships. In addition, disengagement from school, social unrest, poverty, social unrest, and unemployment thus, increasing risks of becoming HIV infected amongst youths, especially the girl child.
“The entire NW region should leave no stone unturned to make sure that school resumes effectively. Staying in school is a risk reduction intervention for HIV. School keeps the girl child in particular, safe.” Lanyuy Harry Ngwanyi added, “We encourage you to continue with this activity. Remember, sensitization should not be limited to holidays period. The skills you have acquired must be put to practice all along as you carry on with your life. Android phones and social media should be used, constructively to communicate this essential information.” While appreciating the efforts of other stakeholders for their contributions in the HIV response, he called on peer educators who received intense trainings to impact their communities, “Under the patronage of the First Lady, the national and regional AIDS control committee and all stakeholders have made AIDS Free Holidays a routine. Make use of this opportunity and bring change to your communities.”
The launching ceremony was heavily represented by RuWCED. For years now, the later has played significant roles in the eradication of HIV/AIDS is rural communities. Till date, RuWCED engages youths, girls, women and men in several activities to sensitize them and train them to act as agents to help other people get rid of the pandemic. RuWCED provides counselling and financial assistance to PLWHIV/AIDS. Also, RuWCED offers vocational trainings, forms support groups to sensitize and empower PLWHIV/AIDS.
In Cameroon, the demographic health survey reveals that the national HIV/AIDS prevalence has decreased from 04.3% in 2011 to 02.7% in 2019. This survey reveals that the HIV prevalence in females is 03.4% and 01.6% in males. In the North West (NW) Region of Cameroon, the 2019 demographic and health survey reveals a further drop in the HIV prevalence by 04%. It is estimated that in 2019, about 4,201 persons are living with HIV in the NW region. As of June 2019, 33,391 persons were placed on antiretroviral treatment. Down from 36,249 persons in June 2018. In June 2019, 2,303 PLWHIV on antiretroviral treatment failed to pick up their treatment. This can be explained by the displacement of PLWHIV on treatment from the NW region to other regions as a result of the crisis.
Globally, there are 37.9 million (2018 statistics) PLWHIV, out of this number, 79% know their status and amongst those who are positive, 78% are receiving treatment. Amongst those who are accessing treatment, 36% of them experienced viral suppression. Every week, around 6,200 young women aged 16-24 years become infected with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa. 4 in 5 rate infections amongst adolescents aged 15-19 years are young girls.