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We Are Neglected, Women Living With HIV Cry Out
By Gabriel Olawale
October 18, 2014

They wore long faces, their cries and lamentations loud and clear. With a common voice, they stated their case, telling stories of woe and anguish. As Persons Living With HIV/AIDS, PLWHA, they share a common destiny but with a common hope. They were united in their situation, bordering on what they termed negligence by the government, leading to inadequate welfare and poor outlook to life.

Presenting their case during a peaceful protest organised by the Coalition for Women and Children Living with HIV/AIDs in Nigeria, in Lagos weekend, the group of PLWA expressed heartfelt reservations about their plight. Take the case of Favour Obius, 32, who tearfully narrated how she lost her pregnancy. In an emotion-laden voice she disclosed that she was doing well prior to being subjected, along with others, to ART treatment.

“I began to notice some changes. At times, I felt like vomiting, my body was weak and I felt dizzy. When I complained at the clinic, they told me they had given all they had and urged me to purchase a single dose of Nevirapine, but since I could not afford the drug, I eventually lost my pregnancy,” she recounted.

Abiola Akeem’s story is similar. The 27-year-old, who recently got married, disclosed that her annoyance was the long hours she has to spend at hospital before been attend to. “Depending on the number of doctors on duty and patients like me on appointment, sometimes I spend between 8-12 hours before being attend to.”

She added that even after gaining entry to see the doctor, it was discovered that the quality of ART drugs dispensed to them was no longer the same. “In fact it is substandard and the manufacturer changes almost every month. Some of the drugs break like chalk.”

Continuing, she stated: “Majority of the PLHA on single dose drugs, maybe because they have kidney problems or are underweight, now buy drugs. For instance, those on single dose ART therapy now buy drugs like Abacavir, Lamivudine, Nevirapine, and Zidovudine at a cost of over N25, 000 monthly. Drug adherence becomes a very big issue and we are told that the wellbeing of positive living hangs on 90 to 95 per cent drug adherence.”

However, Coordinator, Coalition for Women and Children Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, Lucy Attah, cautioned that if care and proper action was not initiated on the issue of HIV/AIDS in the country, it could re-generate more harm and take the country back several years and jeopardise efforts already invested.

“We learned that some patients who ought to be on drugs are not as a result of excuses raging from faulty CD4 machines, non-availability of necessary drugs among others.

“On several occasions, new patients who present to the facility get discouraged due to long queues and depression arising from lack of proper counseling, confusion poor nursing care, which cause some patients turn back and never present again for treatment.”

Lucy said the CD4 count machine which is key to HIV treatment is often faulty. In Nigeria, only eight centres can boast of functional viral load machines as a result of which patients placed on drugs have never had access to the test machine in the last seven years.

“Only pregnant women that should undergo compulsory tests, do the viral load test, even though there are times they are unable to afford it in view of the high charges. They can’t afford it because charges for viral loads test range from N25, 000-N30,000 which is one factor hampering effort towards attaining sustainable PMTCT serv ces in Nigeria,” she remarked.

Attah who called for more commitment said more volunteers preferably PLWA with higher level of learning should be trained to assist in all facility centres advocated for fee pregnancy and child birth services for all women in the country especially at the grassroots.

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