- Published on Thursday, 10 January 2013 18:28
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Minister of State for Defence, Erelu Olusola Obada has assured millions of vulnerable children who became orphans as a result of HIV epidemic of protection and care by the government, so that they can attain their maximum potential in life.
Obada gave the assurance yesterday in Abuja at the inauguration of the Board of Trustees for Ministry of Defence-United States Department of Defence HIV Programme Orphanage Vulnerable Children Project (NMOD-USDOD) HIV Programme OVC Project.
She lamented that the HIV epidemic in Nigeria has followed a unique trend in having a devastating impact on the social, economic, demographic structure of the country, its full impact being on individuals and families.
This, she explained, is the reason the defence ministry decided to collaborate with United States Department of Defence on HIV programme. She recalled that the high mortality rate that attended the epidemic in its early days resulted in rapid increase in the number of single and double orphans in Nigeria.
“It has therefore become a major challenge to enlarge the current safety net in providing support to these unfortunate and vulnerable children and create an enabling environment which protects the rights of OVC and ensures that they can attain their maximum potential in life,” she said, adding that “HIV prevalence in the country has been on the decrease due to the multi-sectoral approach of the government and the active involvement of numerous line ministries, including the Ministry of Defence.”
She commended the immense contribution of the collaborative efforts between the ministry and the United States Department of Defence to the national campaign against HIV/AIDS, also observing that lack of a concrete long-term arrangement for the welfare of OVC in the NMOD-USDOD HIV Programme has been a major challenge that must be addressed on time.
She reminded the BOT members that its primary purpose “is to perform oversight function on the activities of the OVC committee, and to guide and mobilize resources from well-meaning individuals and organisations for the successful implementation of the project.”
Obada then charged them to “bring their wealth of experience to bear in order to provide an enduring life and environment free of stigma and assurance of normal life for our OVC in this programme.”
Responding, Chairman of the BOT, Major General Tahir Umar disclosed that the seven-year-old programme had been able to make positively influence the provision of HIV comprehensive care in military medical facilities.
“In addition to strengthening the prevention activities of Armed Forces Programme on AIDS Control (AFPAC), the programme “has been able to provide counselling services to 319,009 Nigerians from 32 sites located in military hospitals and medical centres spread all over the country,” he said.
“Out of this figure, 316,382 clients have been tested with 50,539 found to be positive as at November 2012. The centres provided free drugs as well as the free counselling services and free laboratory tests. After clinical evaluation, 27,400 were found to require antiretroviral therapy.”
She added that the programme’s services are enjoyed by Nigerians, over 85 per cent of whom are civilians