HIV

Scientists have discovered a way to track changes in sound processing in the brains of people with HIV. Their test provides a simple technique for studying how HIV affects the central nervous system.

Due to advances in antiretroviral drug treatment over the past 20 years, most people with HIV can now expect to live long, healthy lives.

However, even if treatment successfully brings the virus under control, people can experience cognitive issues as a result of HIV causing damage to their central nervous system.

Up to 45% of people with HIV may develop these difficulties, which are known collectively as HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND).

Although the cause of HAND remains unknown, scientists have several theories. They speculate, for example, that it may be the result of chronic inflammation, lingering damage from the initial infection, or a toxic effect of antiretroviral drugs.

Alternatively, low levels of the virus may persist in the brain as a result of the blood-brain barrier limiting the passage of antiretroviral drugs into the brain.

The signs and symptoms of HAND can be subtle, which makes it challenging for doctors to diagnose early and monitor.

Understanding speech

One of the problems that people with HIV sometimes report is difficulty understanding speech in the presence of background noise.

Researchers at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, NH, led a team that studied the hearing of a group of people with HIV in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

They collaborated with scientists from the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Dar es Salaam and neuroscientists from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.

“Initially, we thought we’d find that HIV affects the ear, but what seems to be affected is the brain’s ability to process sound,” says study co-leader Dr. Jay Buckey Jr., a professor of medicine at Geisel.

To test this idea, they used scalp electrodes to monitor the brain waves of 68 people with HIV and 59 people without as they listened to sounds.

Specifically, they recorded a brain response known as the speech-evoked frequency-following response (FFR).

Certain features of brain waves, such as their timing and amplitude, reveal how faithfully the brain encodes an auditory stimulus. The FFR has proven particularly useful for investigating how the brain processes information in highly complex sounds, such as music and speech.

The precision and accuracy of the FFR can improve as a result of experience, such as in trained musicians, or worsen as a result of illness or damage, such as concussion.

“There are many acoustic ingredients in speech, such as pitch, timing, harmonics, and phrase,” says study co-leader Nina Kraus, Ph.D., a professor of communication sciences and neurobiology at Northwestern.

“The FFR enables us to play speech sounds into the ear of study participants and figure out how good a job the brain is doing processing these different acoustic ingredients.”

Common speech sounds

The researchers recorded the FFR while the study participants listened to common speech sounds, such as “ba,” “da,” and “ga.”

They looked at how well the signal encoded two acoustic features of speech, known as the harmonics corresponding to the first formant and fundamental frequency.

The harmonics corresponding to the first formant identify the units of sound, or “phonemes,” that differentiate one word from another, whereas the fundamental frequency reflects the frequency at which the vocal cords vibrate, which helps identify the speaker.

The brains of people with HIV had similar responses to the brains of people without HIV at processing the fundamental frequency.

They also performed well on standard tests of hearing, but the FFR revealed that the brains of people with HIV were worse at encoding the first formant.

In other words, they had normal hearing thresholds, but their brains could not distinguish between the sounds of different words as accurately.

“When the brain processes sound, it’s not like a volume knob where all of the acoustic ingredients are either processed well or poorly,” Kraus explains. “With the FFR, we’re able to see which aspects of auditory processing are affected or diminished and ask, ‘[I]s there a specific neural signature that aligns itself with HIV?’”

The researchers have published their study in the journal Clinical Neurophysiology.

Early aging

The researchers note that as people get older, even if their hearing remains normal, their brains get worse at processing the same speech features that the brains of people with HIV seem to struggle with.

They write that HIV-associated cognitive problems may therefore be akin to early aging.

In the future, they hope that other scientists will use the FFR not only to study brain dysfunction associated with HIV, but also other conditions, such as concussion and Alzheimer’s disease.

Standard tests of cognitive function involve giving people tasks, such as solving math problems or remembering a list of words. However, these are dependent on the language people speak and their culture.

“What’s significant about our results is that the test doesn’t require any actions on the [subject’s] part. It’s recorded passively — subjects can even sleep or watch a movie,” says Dr. Buckey. “We think the FFR holds a lot of promise as a way to assess the brain easily and objectively.”

In their paper, the researchers note that the test could prove particularly useful in parts of the world with the most HIV infections and limited healthcare resources.

They write, “While previous neuroimaging and electrophysiological studies have shown differences between HIV+ and HIV- individuals, these approaches are difficult to transport to resource-limited settings such as sub-Saharan Africa, where >70% of the world’s HIV+ population lives and where there is some evidence that neurocognitive symptoms are more severe.”

“Thus, the FFR holds promise as a research tool to further study [central nervous system] health, particularly in resource-limited settings.”

The study authors acknowledge that research projects involving more participants will be necessary to confirm their results. They say that it would also be interesting to track changes in the FFR from the early stages of infection onward.

Finally, in light of evidence suggesting that different strains of the virus may have differing neurological effects, they would like to see studies that compare FFR tests in different populations around the world.

Encephalitis is a rare condition that is most often caused by viruses (viral encephalitis). It can also be caused by non-infectious diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematous and Behcet’s disease (an autoimmune disorder). The leading cause of severe encephalitis is the herpes simplex virus.

Other causes include: enterovirus infections or mosquito-borne viruses; Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE); Western equine encephalitis (WEE); Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE); Japanese encephalitis; and Zika virus.

The very young and the elderly are more likely to have more severe encephalitis.

Exposure to viruses can occur through breathing in respiratory droplets from infected people, certain insect bites, and direct skin contact.

What are encephalitis symptoms and signs?
The signs and symptoms of encephalitis can range from very mild flu-like symptoms to potentially life-threatening events. Signs and symptoms of encephalitis include: sudden fever, headache, vomiting, visual sensitivity to light, stiff neck and back, confusion, drowsiness, unsteady gait, irritability, loss of consciousness, poor responsiveness, seizures, muscle weakness, sudden severe dementia, and memory loss.

How do health care professionals diagnose encephalitis?
A health care professional diagnoses encephalitis after performing a thorough history and exam. The exam will incorporate special techniques to look for signs of inflammation of the membranes that surround the spinal cord and brain (meninges). The doctor will order specific tests to help determine the diagnosis.

Tests that evaluate individuals suspected of having encephalitis include cerebrospinal fluid analysis, brain scanning such as computerized tomography scan (CT or CAT scan)/ Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, and an evaluation of the blood for infection and the presence of bacteria.

The most common method of obtaining a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (or CSF) for examination is a spinal tap. A spinal tap, or lumbar puncture (LP), involves the insertion of a needle into the fluid within the spinal canal. The needle goes between the spine’s bony parts until it reaches the CSF. A medical professional then collects a small amount of fluid to send to the laboratory for exam. Evaluating the CSF is necessary for a definitive diagnosis of encephalitis and to decide on the best treatment options.

Abnormal spinal fluid results confirm the diagnosis and, in the event of an infection, by identifying the organism that caused the infection.

What is the treatment of encephalitis?
People require urgent treatment with antibiotic and/or antiviral medications if a physician suspects that person has encephalitis. Patients may need to take sedatives for irritability or restlessness. Doctors may administer other medications to decrease the fever or treat headaches.

Prevention

Basic steps to avoid spread of infections (hand washing, covering mouth when coughing, etc.) can help prevent encephalitis.
*Dr. Nwaoney is an epidemiologist, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Medical Director of Richie Hospital and El Shaddai Group.

Dental implants are artificial structures that a dental surgeon inserts into a person’s jawbone. A person may need an implant if they have lost one or more teeth.

Keep reading to learn about the types of implants and associated risks. We also describe what to expect from dental implant surgery and how much the procedure may cost.

What are dental implants?

A dental implant is a structure that replaces a missing tooth. With screw-like devices, the surgeon inserts an implant into the jawbone, and it acts as an anchor for an artificial tooth, called a crown.

A device called an abutment connects the artificial tooth to the dental implant.

The crown is custom-made to fit the person’s mouth and match the color of their teeth. Crowns look, feel, and function like natural teeth.

Implants have several advantages over dentures, which are removable artificial teeth. Implants:

  • are more natural and comfortable
  • have a higher success rate
  • improve chewing function
  • lead to a lower risk of cavities developing in nearby teeth
  • lead to better maintenance of bone at the site of the lost tooth
  • cause decreased sensitivity in nearby teeth
  • do not need to be taken out and cleaned every night

However, dental implants are not suitable for everyone. The implanting devices must bond with the jawbone, so a person’s bones must be healthy before they can undergo implant surgery.

Types

There are two types of dental implant: endosteal and subperiosteal.

Endosteal implants are the most common type. A surgeon embeds them in the jawbone, and each can hold one or more artificial teeth.

A surgeon affixes a subperiosteal implant on top of the jawbone. Dental surgeons choose this option for people who do not have much height to their jawbone.

Safety

According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, around 3 million people in the United States have dental implants, and this number increases by about 500,000 every year.

Dental implant surgery is safe when a qualified and experienced surgeon or dentist performs it. It is also the only dental restoration option that maintains the health of the person’s jawbone and stimulates its growth.

Risks

Some people are not eligible for dental implant surgery. It is not safe for dental surgeons to operate on people with:

  • acute illness
  • uncontrollable metabolic disease
  • bone or soft tissue disease or infection

If these issues are resolved, a person can have the surgery.

In some cases, dental surgeons refrain from operating on people with:

  • heavy smoking habits
  • parafunctional habits, such as tooth grinding or clenching
  • behavioral or psychiatric disorders
  • HIV
  • diabetes
  • osteoporosis
  • AIDS

If people with any of the above undergo dental implant surgery, there is a higher risk of the implant failing.

Dental surgeons may also choose not to operate on people undergoing the following treatments, due to an increased risk of implant complications:

  • bisphosphonate drug treatment for bone loss diseases
  • chemotherapy
  • radiation therapy of the head or neck

Potential complications of implant surgery

People who undergo this procedure may experience complications during or afterward. The issues may include:

  • nerve damage, resulting in altered sensation in the surgical area
  • an opening of the incision following surgery
  • movement of the implant
  • exposure of the implant above the gumline
  • infection of the implant

People who experience movement or exposure of the implant may need to undergo additional procedures to improve the health of the bone and gums or remove or replace the implant.

The following are some signs and symptoms that an implant placement has been unsuccessful:

  • the implant is excessively mobile
  • pus or other secretions come from the site
  • pain when tapping the implant
  • rapid, progressive bone loss

Procedures

Each person is likely to have a different experience of dental implant surgery. Factors that may influence this include:

  • the number of teeth requiring replacement
  • the location of the implants within the jaw
  • the quality and quantity of bone at the implant site
  • the person’s underlying oral and systemic health

Depending on these factors, additional procedures may be necessary. These can include:

Sinus augmentation

Placing an implant in the upper jawbone is usually difficult because of the location of the sinuses.

The surgeon may need to perform a sinus augmentation — a procedure to lift the floor of the sinuses to allow more bone to develop so that the implantation can be successful.

Ridge modification

Some people have a jawbone abnormality that prevents enough bone for an implant from developing. In such cases, a surgeon may need to perform a ridge modification.

This involves lifting the gum to expose the area of deformed bone. The surgeon will then use a bone or bone substitute to repair and build up the area. This improves the quality of the jawbone in preparation for dental implant surgery.

Maintenance

After a person has undergone dental implant surgery, they must continue to brush and floss their teeth regularly. Artificial teeth require the same care and maintenance as regular teeth.

The surgeon or dentist will also schedule follow-up visits to monitor the implants and make sure that the teeth and gums are healthy. It is important to return to the dentist every 6 months for professional cleanings.

Cost

The cost of dental implant surgery varies, and the following factors can influence it:

  • the number and types of implants required
  • the location of the implants within the jaw
  • whether there is a need for any additional procedures to prepare the mouth for surgery

A dentist or another oral health professional can estimate the cost of dental implant surgery during an initial examination.

Some dental insurance policies cover a larger portion of the cost.

Other tooth replacement options, such as bridges, may be less expensive. However, bridges are harder to keep clean and often require replacement and repair, increasing the overall cost. Dental implants may provide longer-term benefits if a person takes care of them well.

Summary

Dental implants are fixtures in the bone that replace missing teeth. Implants have a high success rate and can provide long-term benefits.

Some people need additional procedures to prepare their mouth for dental implants. These will add to the overall cost. The number and type of implants required can also raise the cost.

Anyone considering dental implant surgery should ask their dentist whether it is right for them.

As the world marks the 2019 World Aids Day today, stigmatisation and discrimination against Persons Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) remain the twin factors frustrating a successful fight against the dreaded scourge.

Not only have they prevented people from coming forward to know their status and consequently commence early treatment where result turns out positive, these factors also pose a threat to meeting the 2030 global target to end AIDS.

For PLWHAs, the constant psychological trauma they contend with at treatment centres and in communities where they live further makes life difficult. In fact, the reality of living with a life-threatening ailment finds expression daily in the discriminating and stigmatising behaviours directed at them within their environment.

For instance, “You this dead woman, a living corpse, leave my house!” was how Funmi Okafor, a mother of four children was welcomed as she returned home from the hospital after receiving the news that she tested positive to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), after weeks of constant sickness that defied treatment.

Okafor, who was squatting with a friend, (alongside her kids) after the death of her husband, met her belongings outside, drenched in rainwater, while her friend stood by the door post yelling at her to move away with her children.

With nowhere else to put up, she was forced to move into an incomplete building as her new home.

The mother of four’s journey to this sad realisation started when she noticed rashes on her body, while she was constantly ill and began to lose weight in the process.

With the constant illness, which she thought was malaria fever (as many people would think first), she, however, decided to visit a nurse, whom she told about her constant “malaria fever.”

The nurse took her blood sample to the laboratory to carry out malaria, typhoid, and HIV tests. And on confirming the cause of Okafor’s ailment, the nurse, due to lack of knowledge about patient’s right to confidentiality, refused to inform Okafor that she tested positive to HIV, but rather spread the news around the community where she lived in Edo state.

Determined to know the ailment that has caused her to emaciate, with rashes all over her body, Okafor visited a general hospital, where after the test she was pronounced HIV positive.

“I went to a nurse and told her that I had malaria fever. She took my blood sample to the laboratory. But instead of her disclosing my condition to me, she told my friend, who spread the rumour around. I still was not aware of my status because she did not disclose it to me. It was only after I went to the general hospital that I knew my condition.

“The day I was supposed to be placed on drugs, it rained heavily, and by the time I returned to where I squatted with my children, my host had thrown out all my belongings. After yelling at me and calling me names, I packed what was left of my property and moved,” she recalled.

Before long, Okafor became the butt of jokes in the community where she lived in Edo State, and others avoided contact or any relationship with her. Since she could not stand being ostracised like that, she relocated to Lagos with her children.

She lamented: “It is not easy to cope with life when you are HIV positive. My father and husband are late, while my mother and siblings are in the village. But I was almost alone in the world before I relocated to Lagos because everyone started deserting me,” she said.

CHINWE IKE was pregnant when she discovered that she was HIV positive. She felt like taking her life and for several nights thoughts of suicide assailed her, especially because she did not know what the virus was all about, as people kept saying different things about it.

At the early stage of her pregnancy in 2006, she was on admission to a hospital for one week before she was transferred to another hospital for further treatment.

However, when she went into labour, her HIV status was confirmed in a private hospital, and the doctor in charge of the case requested that she invited a trusted relative over, who would thereafter break the news to her in a calm manner, and get her to accept her condition.

“I decided to invite my friend, who is a nurse instead of a relative. Unfortunately, after she heard of my condition, she went about scandalising me to the extent that my landlady came to me one day and asked me to leave her house. It was afterward that I discovered that it was that my nurse friend that fed everyone with details of my HIV status. Since my landlady insisted that I should leave her apartment, I did,” she said.

Ike added that it was after she left the compound before she started understanding many things about the disease, her rights as a Person Living With HIV (PLWHA). “Just because I did not know anything I had to leave the compound because they were threatening to kill me. Since then I have been living with that stigma and picking up the pieces of my life.

“It is 13 years now and I am still alive. My friend told me then that I had dug my grave, but after some years, I went back to my former neighbourhood for them to see that I am still alive, and when they saw me, most of them were surprised. However, because of the scandal, I lost my job as a secretary/cashier at a company located at the Alaba International Market, Lagos.”

Since 2001 that Chika Nnoroka discovered that she and her 18-month-old son were HIV positive, she has faced extreme stigmatisation and discrimination, not only in her community but also at medical facilities.

She narrated, “The stigmatisation and discrimination got so intense that I did not believe that I and my son would survive. People were keeping away from us, even the doctors and nurses were all stigmatising people living with HIV to the extent that most of us were finding it difficult to go to the facility to access treatment.”

Nnoroka said women were more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS stigmatisation, as many that have lost their husbands were being denied by their family members and friends. Their rights and privileges are also denied.

“By the time I got information from the doctor that there was a treatment to suppress the virus, I was a little bit relieved, but I was afraid for my little son, who just came into this world. I was not bothered about myself,” she said.

Chika’s son, who is now a 20-year-old, is waxing strong with the help of the drugs.

Misconceptions On Mode Of Transmission
Okafor, who has lived with the virus for 19 years said, “most people think that all women living with HIV are prostitutes. My husband was the one that deflowered me; you can contract HIV/AIDS from anywhere.

“I want people to change the narrative that ladies living with HIV/AIDS are wayward, I believe that is why people do not want to come out to check their status or speak up that they have the virus.”

Okafor who narrated how she contracted the virus said, “It was late but the symptoms in my husband’s body showed that he had HIV and he lied to me that it was severe cough. His close friend was the one who disclosed to me that my husband was HIV positive and that his family is keeping it away from me. He said I should go and check myself if I also have the virus.

“I did my test and found out that I was positive. My husband was never a womaniser; I suspect he contracted HIV when he was stabbed him in the chest. He had internal bleeding in his lungs and the hospital asked us to get nine pints of blood, this was during the early 1980s. I strongly believe that it was then that he contracted the disease.”

Ike on her part said: “I am somebody that does not flirt around, I contracted HIV through my husband. It was when I got married to him that I discovered that I had the virus. Initially, I could not believe that I was down with that kind of health problem.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), HIV can be transmitted through close contact with specific body fluids of persons living with the virus. Apart from fluids such as blood, semen, and breast milk; unprotected sex, body piercing equipment, or sharp objects are also vehicles of transmission. Transmission can also be done through mother-to-baby during pregnancy and through contaminated blood transfusion.

‘Cost’ Of Drugs Limiting Access To Treatment
With many of the people living with the virus jobless, and without hope of employment, affording the drugs for treatment and other medical procedures becomes difficult.

Ike said: “These drugs that we are taking are to sustain our lives and we have to eat well before taking them. What I am emphasising on is that the government should help us because right now, we are paying for drugs, and not everyone can afford it. We pay N2, 000 for consultation; N1, 000 for drugs and almost N3, 000 for laboratory. Not everybody that is HIV positive can afford it, so we are begging the government to help people living with HIV, by making drugs and treatment procedures free. It is laughable when we are told that the drugs are free of charge, and when we get to the hospital we are told to pay for the procedures that I have mentioned.

Implications
Findings by The Guardian reveal that because of rising stigmatisation, many people living with HIV/AIDS are staying away from hospitals, while those who suspect their status do not make themselves available for examination. Because of all these, and the inability of many to access treatment early, more people are getting infected and dying from the virus.

This is also why some cases have remained undetected, a development that poses more danger to the country, as those who are unaware of their status could infect others, thereby increasing the spread of the virus.

Ike, who revealed an earlier encounter, which nearly ended her life said: “When I went to a laboratory to do another test to confirm my status, the lab scientists told me that people with the virus can neither get married nor have children. With that impression, I refused to go to the hospital or any other institution for treatment. I concluded that I would commit suicide at home one day.”

Ike who lost her husband to the virus continued: “Because of this stigmatisation people find it difficult to disclose their HIV status because once they do, the news spreads so fast and then sooner than later they are shut out of their families and the society. Where I reside now, I have kept my HIV status a big secret.

“Some people do not even believe that there is something like a discordant couple, where either of the partners is negative, while the other is positive. The reality is that when two people are dating and then one discloses his or her HIV status to the other, the relationship breaks up immediately because they do not believe that those who are positive can have children who are HIV negative,” she explained.

Ike added that her refusal to take treatment cost her two-month-old her life after she developed cough and died. This made her summon courage and head to head to the hospital for treatment.

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Nigerian Business Coalition Against AIDS (NiBUCAA) has promised to support the Federal Government in providing Antiretroviral (ARV) therapy to boost treatment and care for people living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS).

The executive secretary, Gbenga Alabi, said the move was in line with the ‘Communities Make the Difference’ theme of the 2019 World AIDS Day.

World AIDS Day, marked on December 1 since 1988, is an international day dedicated to raising awareness on the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection and mourning those who have died of the disease.

According to him, ARVs, which suppress the HIV, stop the progression of the disease and prevent onward transmission, are very expensive, with the United States (U.S.) government supporting Nigeria in its provision.

Once the U.S. pulls out of the supply of the drugs, Nigeria will suffer great loss, he added.

“In fact, more than 70 per cent of ARVs in Nigeria are provided by U.S. government and there is need for us, at this point, to try to own it and sustain it.

“So, ownership and sustainability is the sole responsibility of the government. But government cannot do it alone; that is why the private sector has to come on board to complement government’s effort,” he said.

He said the private sector was also assisting in the provision of testing kits to health facilities, as well as helping carriers to manage the virus.

“As we commemorate the 2019 World AIDS Day, NiBUCAA is making a call for increased access to HIV testing and increased uptake of HIV testing.

“Around the world, 37 million people are living with HIV, yet a quarter does not know that they have the virus.

“Knowing your HIV status has many advantages. It is an essential entry point to HIV treatment, prevention, care and support services. People who test positive are linked immediately to ARV therapy. There has been a good progress on HIV testing and treatment driven by a strong growing commitment to achieve 90-90-90 targets by 2020,” he said.

Alabi added that as part of global efforts to end AIDS by 2030, the coalition would provide free HIV testing services to 5,000 people across various 20 councils in Lagos State for eight consecutive days from Monday, November 25.

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The federal government has launched the Undetectable equals Untransmittable (U=U) campaign to promote the benefit of treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS and encourage them to access treatment.

Launching the campaign in commemoration of the 2019 World AIDS Day (WAD) with theme, ‘Communities Make the Difference’ on behalf of government, through the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) and the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) in conjunction with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Senate President Ahmed Lawan said Nigeria was launching an important and strategic campaign to help the country achieve zero new HIV infections and reduce stigma for Nigerians living with HIV.

He said, Nigeria is reaffirming its commitment through all the relevant communities to make the difference in the National HIV response to attain the 90-90-90 goal by the end of 2020.

The Director General, NACA, Dr Aliyu Gambo said, the theme of this year’s WAD acknowledged the essential role communities play in the global HIV response.

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In a bid to make this year’s World AIDS Day highly impactful, the Nigeria Red Ribbon Coalition, a strategic public-private sector alliance, organised a novelty football match yesterday in Lagos to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and also provide free HIV Testing and Counselling services.

The celebrity football match featured ex-international football stars who have carved a niche for themselves in the soccer sporting world as well as notable celebrities in the Nigerian music and film industry.

Leading the Ex-international stars were Emmanuel Babayaro (health Ambassador and Ex-Super Eagles Goalkeeper), Ifeanyi Udeze, Victor Agali, Emmanuel Okocha, Abdul Isah and several others. Representing the movie and music industry were stars like Belinda Effah (actress and presenter), John Njamah (actor/movie producer), ID Cabassa (popular music producer whose real name is Olumide Ogunade), Sound Sultan (a Nigerian rapper, singer-songwriter, actor, comedian and recording artist, born Olanrewaju Fasasi), and a host of other celebrities who took time out of their busy schedules to join hands in pushing back the scourge of our common adversary – HIV.

‎The coalition convened by Coca-Cola , Nigeria comprises Youth Empowerment Foundation (YEF), Youth Empowerment and Development Initiative (YEDI), Society for Family Health (SFH).

Declaring the match open, the convener and Community Affairs Manager, Coca-Cola Nigeria, Emeka Mba, reiterated the company’s resolve to support grassroots innovative approaches aimed at improving lives nationwide. He noted that the Coalition which started last year, was building on the successes made at the inaugural edition in 2015 by mobilizing and sensitizing people to know their status with the provision of free HIV testing services in a friendly environment, tackling issues of stigmatization, discrimination and fear of getting tested, promoting social inclusion and adequate care for People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and stimulating a larger stakeholder involvement.

Mba added that no individual, government, or organisation can single-handedly make meaningful progress in the fight against HIV/AID, hence the need for a coalition.

In her remarks, the Executive Director, Youth Empowerment and Development Initiative (YEDI), Anu Ishola underscored the coalition’s strategy of leveraging each party’s organisational strength and corporate core competences that has brought the pan-Nigeria alliance thus far.

“We decided to have a strategic alliance that boasts of credible NGOs like Society for Family Health, Youth Empowerment Foundation (YEF), YEDI and other private sector partners like Ford Foundation, Federal Palace Hotel, Owu SportsWear, etc. Coupled with celebrity advocacy – with a star-studded Novelty match on the side, we have been able to reach out to a large spectrum of people who have come out not just to watch football, but also to voluntarily get tested and counselled for HIV.”

She expressed gratitude to global beverage giant Coca-Cola – the chief funder of the initiative and MAC AIDS as well as other partners who are contributing immensely to the fight against HIV/AIDS.

On the impact of a novelty match in combating HIV, the leader of the ex-International who is also a health Ambassador, Emmanuel Hyacinth Babayaro, older brother of former Chelsea and Newcastle United player Celestine Babayaro said:”We are leveraging celebrity advocacy and role modelling to mobilize people because behind every celebrity or role model, there are a thousand and one people who would like to emulate them.

So we have all of them here today for free because they believe in this cause and they want to contribute their quota. Young people came out here today to be tested and get accurate information about HIV/AIDS. Our target this year is to provide free HIV Counselling and Testing to 18,000 persons across 11 states in Nigeria including Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Edo, Enugu, FCT Abuja, Gombe, Imo, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, and Oyo with a combination of activities including this novelty match. I’m happy to be a part of this.”

In her views, Iwalola Akin-Jimoh the Executive Director of YEF, the novelty match and other activities were important as they serve as ways of reminding the Government, private sector organisations and the general public that HIV has not gone away and that collectively, there is the need to increase awareness, fight prejudice and stigmatization, improve awareness/sensitization channels and develop appropriate funded programmes to maintain the drive towards eradicating the scourge.

The fun-filled novelty match which drew a huge crowd within the Lagos Island environs, including Mr. Ibrahim Umoru, Executive Director, Good Health Educators Initiative and former coordinator, Lagos State Chapter of the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, ended 5-3, in favour of ex-internationals who played against celebrities and corporate Nigeria. There was also a celebrity placard display with various messages to raise awareness about HIV as well as o one-minute in respect of those who have died as a result of the dreaded virus.

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At least 500 Nigerians die of HIV/AIDs daily, with an average new infection of 600 people every day, says Sani Aliyu, Director General, National Agency for the Control of AIDs, NACA.

Mr. Aliyu gave the figure during an interview with the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, about HIV/AIDs, aired on Saturday night.

He said although the country has achieved great heights with the support of government and the international community, a lot of help is still needed from private individuals to address the challenges posed by the existence of HIV/AIDs in Nigeria.

Mr. Aliyu noted that Nigeria is still the second most affected country with HIV/AIDs, globally behind South Africa. He called on government and stakeholders to ensure increased education of the girl child and women empowerment as a means of addressing the challenge.

He added that the global theme for this year’s event to mark the World AIDs day, “Hands up for HIV/AIDs prevention,” was adjusted for Nigeria, to match with the country’s current prevalence rate of 3 per cent.

“You know that for Nigeria the topic for this year is not ‘hands up’; when you say hands up you are giving up. It’s ‘hands on’ for us in Nigeria,” said Mr. Aliyu.

About 72,000 adolescents are reportedly living with HIV in Lagos State, officials have said.

Also according to the Borno State’s coordinator for HIV/AIDs, no fewer than 5,000 Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, in 27 camps in the state are currently living with the virus.

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A national scientific conference on HIV prevention has been organised to showcase the achievements of the response to AIDS in Nigeria.

The landmark conference organised by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS is part of activities to commemorate World AIDS Day 2016, under the theme Hands on for HIV prevention.

The conference has been slated to take place in Abuja, with participants drawn from relevant government departments and agencies, research institutions, the private sector, development partner agencies and representatives of people living with or affected by HIV.

According to the Acting Director-General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, Dr. Kayode Ogungbemi, the conference’s theme, ‘Hands on for Prevention’, signifies the fact that Nigeria’s national response aligns with the present global direction of increasing HIV prevention efforts.

He said, “The conference aims at showcasing the achievements, discussing the lessons learnt and seeking to set the pace for tackling prevention gaps.

“The Nigeria HIV Prevention Conference 2016 will bring together a range of experts to advance knowledge, present new research findings, as well as promote and enhance scientific and community collaborations.

“It will also be a platform for discussions on development of new strategies for addressing HIV, especially in the area of prevention.”

The Chairperson, Organising Committee, Dr. Akudo Ikpeazu, added, “We welcome participants from all sectors: government, business community, civil society, academia and others.

“It is my hope that participants will all take advantage of the conference and the opportunities it presents for networking, forming new collaborations and strengthening old partnerships to strengthen HIV prevention efforts.”

Presentations at the conference have been organised under four knowledge areas: behavioural, biomedical, structural, and key population issues.

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Fear has gripped commercial sex workers in Lagos, following reports that the 67-year-old Irish national, Mr. James Turner, accused by his 31-year-old Nigerian girlfriend of deliberately infecting her with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV, was a frequent visitor to clubs.

In fact, some of them claimed to know some of the ladies the Irish national had picked at one time or the other.

It will be recalled that Mr. Turner, was dragged to the Ikeja Police Division last week, by his Benue State-born girlfriend, Helen, after he reneged on his promise to settle her with N2.5 million, after discovering that she had been infected.

Helen, who insisted that her lover of eight years deliberately infected her with the virus, told Vanguard that she stumbled on the anti-retroviral drugs Turner was secretly taking, four months after his status was confirmed.

She also claimed to have caught Turner pants down with one of her girlfriends in his apartment, after he was confirmed to be living with HIV.

Although Turner claimed Helen infected him with the virus, he, however, told policemen during interrogation that he had so far slept with about six ladies, especially commercial sex workers, since he was confirmed to be HIV positive.

Security sources, who are said to have details of the clubs visited, refused to reveal same to Vanguard.

Helen’s friend, too

Similarly, Helen’s girlfriend, who she claimed Mr. Turner slept with, is also living in fear. The lady (names withheld) was said to have been informed of the development through Vanguard’s publication yesterday.

She was said to have immediately visited an undisclosed hospital to confirm her status. But at press time, the result of the test could not be ascertained.

Police sources hinted that the lady could be invited in the course of the ongoing investigation.

However, Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Dolapo Badmus, told Vanguard yesterday that the command was still awaiting expert opinion to conclude the charge against the suspect.