The World AIDS Day, 2019 was observed by SSDP Nigeria in Abeokuta, the capital city of Ogun State. In honour of this year’s theme; “Communities Make the Difference”, SSDP Nigeria hosted a ‘Drugs and People’ Symposium to address the risks of needle sharing amongst People Who Inject Drugs (PWID), which exposes them to the risk of acquiring HIV.
The symposium was held in collaboration with Knowledge Over Drug Abuse (KODA.Ng), and Precious Pharmacy, Abeokuta on the 1st of December, 2019. It was a great success with an audience of 115 with representatives from the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), the Nigerian Ministry of Health, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), the Federal Medical Center in Abeokuta (FMC), the Ogun State Drug Control Committee (OSDCC), Youthrise Nigeria, and the African Students for Liberty (ASFL) in attendance. It even made it onto the 9pm Galaxy TV news!
Through the sharing of syringes, while injecting drugs, many Nigerians have unknowingly been infected with HIV and AIDS. According to a report by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), sharing of syringes while injecting drugs accounts for 32% of people living with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria. In the bid to inject drugs, a group of people may subscribe to using the same syringe without knowing the health status of other members of the group. By having information about the potential risks of sharing syringes, people who use drugs can make informed decisions that will help prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS in Nigeria.
Dr. Funmilayo Oladeji, a community Doctor with the Federal Medical Center, (FMC) Abeokuta, made a presentation on preventive measures that can be adopted by all to prevent the spread of HIV. In her presentation, Dr Oladeji advised the participants of the symposium to ensure that the steps highlighted in the prevention of the spread of HIV is applied in their everyday lives.
Pharmacist Tiamiyu Olayemi from Precious Pharmacy in Abeokuta spoke about the sharing of syringes amongst people who inject drugs. He gave examples to further support his points on the risks that come with sharing syringes. Considering the delicate and sensitive position of the youth within the country, sharing of syringes among them remains a major threat to national growth and development. The youth, being the foundation of life and society, must be given the necessary awareness and support if we expect our society to succeed and have great future leaders.
Bashorun Olufemi (pictured above), the President of SSDP Nigeria discussed the prominence of sharing syringes. He spoke about his personal encounters with people who have acquired HIV as a result of sharing syringes.
As one of the items on the agenda of the symposium, there was a free HIV test for all participants of the symposium. The free HIV test was done by representatives of the Federal Medical Center (FMC) in Abeokuta. The goal was to break the stigma and encourage people in Nigeria to know their HIV status and seek treatment if needed.