by Adenike Fagbemi
Owing up to the fact that HIV/AIDS is an unprecedented crisis that demands an exceptional response, stakeholders have charged dedicated researchers, health care professionals, clinical trial participants and members of the global community not to relent in enuring that the pread of HIV/AIDs in Nigeria be reduced to the barest minimum.
This charge was made over the weekend at the Nigerian Business Coalition against AIDS [NiBUCCA] high impact CEO partnership Dinner.
While addressing pressmen, the Executive Secretary, NiBUCCA, Gbenga Alabi noted that it is important for the private sector to partner with NIBUCAA in its drive to eradicate HIV/AIDS from Nigeria, quoting Juan Somavia, a former Director General of the International Labour Organization, said two out of three people living with HIV or AIDS go to work everyday, making the workplace s vital entry point for tackling the menace.
Alabi said NIBUCAA which currently comprises of 36 leading businesses across the country and committed to fighting the menace at all levels, represents the voice of Nigerian private sector response to HIV/AIDS, hence, the coalition which seeks to build a public-private partnership with government, civil society organization and international donor community, among other objectives, will promote activities encouraging demand for HIV voluntary confidential counselling and testing in the workplace.
“Nigeria’s greatest assets and investment opportunity is its human capital, therefore, all hands must be on deck at ensuring that the human capital, which is the country’s source of economic growth and development be protected and enlightened about the menace of AIDS/HIV,” Alabi added.
To further buttress his point, the Group Managing Director of Access Bank Plc, Herbert Wigwe in the same vein urged operators in the private sector to join hands in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Wigwe, who is a Co-Chair of the board of NIBUCAA said that the scourge of HIV/AIDS still persists in the country with Nigeria having the second largest AIDS population in the world.
“We have to realize that HIV/AIDS is not just a health problem, it is a developmental challenge. Therefore, the private sector cannot afford to be complacent with regards to the scourge. It is eminently desirable that private sector supports all efforts geared towards the realization of the goal of the multi-sectoral response to HIV pandemic in particular under the Sustainable Development Goals,” he added.
In his own comment at the dinner party, Nicolas Terras, Managing Director of Total E&P Nigeria and a Co-chair of NIBUCAA board, said the fight against HIV/AIDS is too big for the government to handle alone.
According to him, captains of industries have collective leadership roles to play in the multi- sectoral response to HIV and AIDS, adding that the scourge is one that must be won at all costs.
He said NIBUCAA, as a platform should be a veritable channel for the private sector to utilize their core competencies and resources towards addressing the issue of HIV/AIDS prevalence in the country.
Another member of board, Engr Osagie Okunbor of Shell Petroleum Development Company, said the organization since its establishment has achieved a lot in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but added that a lot still needed to be done.
He said that is the more reason why other companies must come onboard NIBUCAA in other to achieve one of its goals of supporting the private sector to establish and implement workplace and community- based HIV/AIDS prevention and education programmes.
Earlier in her remark, Head of Sustainability in Access Bank Plc, Mrs. Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan said since the establishment of NIBUCAA by former president Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003, it has been able to get the private sector participation in the country’s battle against the HIV/AIDS scourge.
She said participating companies or those willing to partner NIBUCAA will benefit immensely from the partnership.
“Aside from providing access to training sessions and workplace interventions, NIBUCAA will also assist member companies to develop and implement workplace HIV/AIDS policies and progrmmes, including prevention education that will reinforce desired safer sex behavior, voluntary confidential counselling, testing, and treatment,” she said.
According to her, there’re three levels of annual membership fees for member companies, Platinum membership goes for N15m, and Gold membership is N10m while Silver membership is N5m.