The HIV prevalence in the North West region has dropped from 6.3% in the age group 15 to 49 years in 2011 to 4.3% in the age group in 2018 and to 4% in 2019. This was revealed by the Secretary General at the Governor’s office Lanyuy Harry Ngwanyi on behalf of Governor Aldoph Lele L’Afrique, at the launch of the 2019 Holidays Free of HIV/AIDS, on the 23th of August 2019, at the North West Regional Fund for Health, Bamenda.
He further revealed that there is little or no improvement of the HIV prevalence rate in adolescents and young girls. According to CAMPHIA results, the number of new HIV infections in the age group 15 to 24 years is 9 times higher in females than in males in the same age group. Indicators from the 2018 health and demographic survey reveals that girls in the age group 20 to 29 years have a prevalence of HIV that is 2 times higher than boys in the same age group.
The disturbing results have been attributed to the low risk perception from youths. Youths fail to abstain from premarital sex and are prone to having multiple and concurrent sexual partners, intergenerational sex, sexual coercion, inability to negotiate for safe sex and transactional sex thus aggravating their risk of contracting HIV. These are not the only reasons as disengagement from school, social unrest, poverty, unemployment and underemployment increases the risk of youths, especially girls.
It is at the backdrop of such fallouts that the 17th edition of the Holidays Free HIV/AIDS 2019 under the patronage of the First Lady Chantal Biya with the theme “Android Generaion, click on HIV Testing’, has been organized for youths in the region and nationwide to learn life skills that will enable them confront the HIV pandemic and contribute in eradicating HIV by 2030.
Lanyuy Harry also used this opportunity to called on all stakeholders in the region to put in more efforts to make sure children go back to school come September. He also reminded the peer educators of interpersonal communication skills they were thought during their training and should not limit the sensitization to the holiday period.
According to the Regional Delegate of Public Health for the NW, Dr Che Soh Kinsley, the ministry of public health aims at eliminating HIV as a public health problem by 2030 by helping at least 90% of persons living with HIV know their status; placing at least 90% of persons living with HIV on treatment and causing Viral suppression in at least 90% of those on antiretroviral therapy (ART). Dr Kingsley Che Soh also indicated that in 2019, over 64,201 persons are living with HIV in the region and the delegation is targeting 38,067 persons for treatment by December 2019. “So far by June 2019, we had placed 33,391 persons on antiretroviral therapy down from 36,249 persons on treatment in June 2018. In June 2019, 2353 persons living with HIV (PLHIV) on ART failed to pick up their treatment. This is due to the displacement of PLHIV on treatment within the region to other regions.
From January to June 2019, in all 19 health districts in the region, HIV testing was offered to 176,917 persons and had 2,509 positive for HIV giving a 1.4% positive rate. However, the positive rate is above 2% in Bamenda, Ndu, Santa, Nwa and Bafut health districts. Out of the 2,509 persons, 2114 persons were placed on treatment.
Antiretroviral therapy is free of charge and given to those tested positive and those not on treatments are advised to do so.
To Bih Rita, team leader of the peer educators, working on the field is challenges as people want them to identify themselves because of the current socio-political crisis. “Some don’t even listen to us especially young boys though some are welcoming. Personally, I have learnt to be polite because your manner of approach matters a lot. If you are to the people, they will not listen to you”.
So far the peer educators have covered the neighborhoods of Food Market, Old Church, Travellers, Nitop and Main Market.
It noted that the launching of the 2019 Holidays Free of HIV/AIDS was done later than the usual time due to the unrest in the region.
By Maikem Emmanuela Manzie