21 November 2003
Saturday last week would be long remembered by Lagosians as no fewer than 5,000 volunteers trooped into the streets, singing and dancing in a long walk to further raise the HIV/AIDS awareness campaign. Volunteers, who were out from early in the day for the campaign include members of non-governmental organisations (NGO), civil servants, businessmen, primary and secondary schools students and students of higher institutions , among others.
The walk, which started from as 7 am, took participants through Maryland to the National stadium.
In the forefront of the walk organised by Hope Worldwide to raise funds for HIV/AIDS infested children, were Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Lake Pitan, the Director of Hope Worldwide Dr. Osilaja and his wife, Mrs. Leye Osilaja, Mrs. Maiden Ibru and the Director of Lagos State School of Health Technology, Dr. Kayode John among others.
Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Pitan, told City Diary that they participated in the walk to create awareness about the disease among the populace, saying that if people come out as early as this time of the day to see this crowd walking on the street and campaigning about HIV/AIDS they will call themselves to order and mindful of the consequences of the disease.
In his words: " What we are doing is to arouse awareness of the disease to the community because there is no way this mass heads can pass through anywhere shouting HIV/AIDS without people noticing them".
He advised that people should abstain from unprotected sex, stick to partner, be weary of sharp objects and in case of not being able to abstain from sex, use condom to avoid being infected.
He said the disease up till now have no cure, explaining that there were only anti-retroviral drugs, which were scarce and expensive, to treat, the secondary infections like tuberculosis, fever and other related infections.
Pitan denied the accusation that government attitude to HIV/AIDS carriers by retrenching victims from work was responsible for the high rate of their stigmatisation.
" With respect to stigmatisation, the Lagos State government has never in any way discriminated against carriers rather we have been encouraging them through appointments and provision of anti-retroviral drugs to them at subsidised prices," he said.
He said availability of anti-retroviral drugs in abundance at subsidised rates would check stigmatisation stating if victims have them to use, they would no longer be ashamed because you would hardly identify carriers.
He called on the Federal Government not to only make the drugs available in abundance but also to make it cheap and, if possible totally free.
"The causes of stigmatisation is the believe that once you have the disease, you will die. This was the same case about diabetes, leprosy, hypertension, gonorrhea,among others until cures were found for them: he said".
He cautioned the public from buying pint of blood that is not carrying the label of the Lagos State Ministry of Health whether in private or government hospitals warning, that a blood bank found selling blood without the approved label would be prosecuted.
The Executive Director of Hope worldwide, Mrs. Leye Osilaja, said the objective of the walk was to bring hope to the sick, hope to the children of HIV/AIDS victims and hope to all explaining that they are organising the walk to create awareness and raise money for the children of victims adding that the money raised would be used to feed, cloth and train the children of HIV/AIDS victims.
In her words: " The walk is to raise money for children of HIV/AIDS victims. There are about 9,000 orphans and vulnerable children. Already we have about 27 of the children under our care. We cloth, feed and sponsor the education of the children".
She explained that it was the fourth time they were organising the walk, adding that the walk was sponsored by well meaning Nigerians, corporate organisations and government institutions among others..
He called on Nigerians to assist them with funds so as to achieve their objective of caring for the children of dead HIV/AIDS victims, or those who are too weak to fend for their children..
Osilaja stated that the walk was not organised in Lagos alone, but also in Abuja, Ilorin, Warri, Ibadan and Port-Harcourt .
The Director of Lagos State School of Health Technology , Dr. Kayode John,said the only way they could contribute to the creation of awareness about HIV/AIDS in the country, is by participating in the walk.
"We try and preach to them what abstinence is all about, as drugs, though available now, but very expensive. Although I am not aware of the exact figure of those affected, but information, reaching me states millions are afflicted and many of them dead" he said.
He said that they have an HIV/AIDS club in their school, where people were counseled on why they must be afraid to go for the test and advise victims to cope with the disease, was being a victim is not the end of the world.
Participants after four hours of walking through the streets of Lagos, ended up at the National Stadium, Surulere, played for no fewer than 500 children to round off the event.