Mr. Amaechi, who was quoting a recent statistics from the last research conducted by the Lagos State AIDS Control Agency (LSACA), said this at a media conference to announce the 2010 Lagos State Annual Forum on HIV and AIDS Programming, to be held on March 24 and 25 in Lagos.
He said the statistics suggests an increase of 1.8 percent in a period of four years, and the Forum will be used to spread awareness.
The organisers said the event, themed ‘Multi-Sectoral Approach: key to successful HIV and AIDS programming,’ is to help reduce stigmatisation and discrimination against persons living positively with HIV and AIDS.
“The prevalence rate is now 5.1 per cent (990,000) of the population; it has gone up again from the 3.3 percent it used to be,” he said.
“That is why there is a need for us to create awareness. For people to know that if they are not infected, they should remain uninfected, and if one is infected, he or she can live positively. It is also important that the relationship between the infected and the uninfected should be cordial.”
Moreover, the state secretary of CiSHAN, Henry Adenigba, said the figure also shows there is transparency in the state, and that efforts made by the state government, the media, non-profit organisations, and HIV/AIDS support groups are beginning to have positive impacts:
“In Lagos, a lot more management is being put in place, and AIDS is no longer a big issue.
“Also, more people are getting tested in Lagos, because of the many Heart to Heart centres (Centres for HIV testing and counselling), so they are getting to know their status. Unlike in other states where they are hiding and shy, so they don’t have accurate figures; we have more accurate figures in Lagos.”
The organisers also said the event will sensitise people about their rights, citing that a lot of Lagos residents are not aware of the laws protecting them.
The ‘Law for the protection of people living with HIV and AIDS’ was signed into law by the former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, on May 18, 2007, after passing through the State House of Assembly.
“People should be aware that there is a law protecting those that are infected and those that are not infected. If you are infected, the law encourages you to live positively, but if you are not, the law prohibits you from infecting others intentionally; the law will not take it easy on such a person,” said Mr. Amaechi.
Mr. Amaechi added that the law can only be enforced through education and the sensitisation of the populace. “We need to educate people in their local dialect; educate the market women in the language they understand,” he said.
This year’s Annual Forum on HIV and AIDS Programming will include a road show from Ikeja bus stop to Alausa, workshop presentations, and an award ceremony to honour individuals and corporate bodies who have contributed positively towards HIV and AIDS control and awareness.