The Ogun  state Government on Thursday in Abeokuta said no fewer than 400,000 people are currently living with the HIV and AIDS scourge in the state.

The state’s Commissioner for Health, Dr Olaokun Soyinka, made the disclosure at a news conference to mar k the 2013 World AIDS Day in the state.

Soyinka lamented the prevalence rate in the state, saying it was “rising and falling’’.

He said the scourge had maintained an undefined pattern since 1996, pointing out that the situation implied that “we are not winning the war against HIV/AIDS’’.

The commissioner however said the state was fighting the scourge aggressively from all fronts.

“We have been using education, sensitization, HIV testing and counseling, with the provision of anti-retroviral drugs to infected people,’’ he said.

Soyinka said the 2010 statistics showed that 2.7 per cent of the figure of those with the bane was in Abeokuta.

“But we have 5.0 per cent in Ijebu-Ode, 1.3 per cent in Ayetoro and 2.0 per cent in Isara,’’ he said.

The commissioner explained that Ijebu-Ode’s figure was high because it thrives as an economic and social hub with a high population of students.

While describing the state’s proximity to Lagos as a blessing, Soyinka said there was the need to develop more potent methods to prevent the disease.

He pointed at the fact that there was a high influx of people into the state from Lagos which has a relatively higher prevalence rate in South-West Nigeria.

“Strategies must be in place to avert HIV transmission from Lagos state which records a prevalence rate of 4.2 per cent.

“Also, there is still low comprehensive knowledge about HIV, especially in rural areas.

“And, apart from that, the rate of infection is highest among couples because some don’t know their status, and still don’t use condoms.

“And in using condoms, we insist on a correct use of condoms,” Soyinka said.

The commissioner explained that the 2013 World AIDS Day’s theme was aimed at encouraging people to know their status and avoid discriminating against people living with the virus.

He said stigmatization was a major reason why people were afraid of knowing their status.

“Stigmatization is a very serious issue. It is one reason why people are afraid of knowing or disclosing their status. Even families are not willing to disclose the status of members living with the virus.

“So, how do you get treatment when you don’t know your status?” Soyinka asked

Also speaking at the occasion, Director of the State Action Council on AIDS (SACA), Dr Kehinde Fatungase, told journalists that the state was sponsoring a stigmatization bill.

He said the bill would make discrimination against those with HIV/AIDS a serious crime in the state.

“The stigmatization bill is in the state House of Assembly. It has gone through the second reading, and I gather that there will be a public hearing on it next month.

“Once the bill is signed into law, we will be able to fight stigmatization wholly,” the SACA director said.

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