THE Benue State government has disclosed that over one million out of the 4.5 million population in the state have been infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
This was made known at the training of media professional on HIV/AIDS held at the Conference Hall, Ministry of Information, Markurdi, Benue State, on Thursday.
The Executive Secretary, Benue State Action on Control of AIDS (BESACA), Mrs. Grace Wende, in a paper entitled “Basic facts on HIV/AIDS,” said that about 400,000 children living with the virus have been placed on antiretroviral drugs (ARV), adding that 708,640 adults are living with the disease.
Based on the statistics, about two out of five people in the state are carriers of the disease, with women having it more than men.
According to Mrs. Wende, the children carriers of the disease, who have the highest infection rate, were born with the disease. These children, according to her, got the disease from mothers who failed to go for ante-natal care at government-owned hospitals where their status could have been detected earlier.
“In Benue State, the number of adults infected with HIV/AIDS was 708,640, out of which 21,259 were new infections in 2011. In the same year, 17,139 women were found positive. The number of children requiring ARV was 398, 888,” she said.
Mrs. Wende cited the attitude of the people of the state to unprotected sex and the rising number of youths becoming homosexuals as factors responsible for the rise in the scourge.
Speaking further, Mrs. Wende noted that many men who flock around ladies and engage in unprotected sex also transmit the virus to their unsuspecting wives.
At the moment, according to her, the state has 40 treatment centres where the free antiretroviral drugs are provided to those living with the virus, adding that the state has enough drugs in stock till 2015.
The Commissioner for Information, Mr. Comrad Wegba, regretted that despite the huge amount of funds the state had committed into the fight against the scourge, the disease was still spreading.
He blamed the practice of unprotected sex and the deliberate spreading of the disease by carriers as the major sources of the spread of the disease in the state.
“The former governor of the state, Chief George Akume, visited Angola to see the havoc the disease wreaked on the land and ways to reduce the scourge. Unfortunately, while the prevalence of the disease has reduced in other parts of the country, Benue is getting worse by the day and this is as a result of our attitude to unprotected sex as well as deliberate move by the carriers to spread the disease,” Wegba said.
Together with Mrs. Wende, the commissioner called for behavioural change among the people, urging them to stick to a partner and use condom.