Over 3,000 marathoners at the just concluded Lagos City Marathon were reached with an inspired campaign to reduce the risk of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDS) in Nigeria and Africa.
Attendees and marathoners drawn from Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world were reached with the awareness on best practices to manage their health and wellbeing. This included HIV testing, counseling and treatment.
The campaign was led by a health coalition powered by leading African financial powerhouse, Access Bank in collaboration with The ENDFund, Nigeria Business Coalition Against AIDS (NiBUCAA) and Hacey Health Initiative.
The campaign aimed to sensitize all participants and the general public on the NTDs which is said to affect over 1.7 billion of the world’s impoverished population, including more than 1 billion children.
According to Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan, Head of Sustainability and Corporate Communications, Access Bank Plc, the intervention is another demonstration of the organization’s leadership in sustainability by leveraging the population of the marathon.
She explained, “What we have done at Access Bank, a leader in sustainability is to partner with relevant stakeholders to ensure that we are able to get as many people tested, let people know their statuses and take the relevant action that they need to take.”
“The marathon has brought together thousands of people which provides the right platform for us to utilize and advocate issues of significant health impact or challenge. You may be aware that about 53,000 people die of HIV in Nigeria. There is a need to bring down this figure if possible to zero. There is a need to prevent new infections and for people to get tested to know their status and get treatment so that they can lead normal lifestyles. I don’t know of any other platform that give us access to such huge number of people to achieve this purpose.
Also speaking, Rhoda Robison, Executive Director, HACEY Health Initiative said, “we provided free HIV counsel and testing as well as free condoms for over 3,000 people that attended the marathon. This started from the kits collection event to the marathon day itself. It’s not about testing alone, it’s about providing them information to continuously prevent HIV infection and for those who are positive for them to stick with their ARC treatment so that they achieve virus suppression.”
“HACEY Health Initiative has been working with and preventing HIV over 10 years so we have been working for over a decade and we have been working with Access bank for the pass four to five years in ensuring and promoting HIV testing and counselling. We connect those who are tested positively to different centers, we have achieved a lot, we’ve reach over 10,000 people through our messages over the years.”
Meanwhile, during the Marathon Expo which held from February 3 to 7, 2020, the public was educated on the group of parasitic and infections including River Blindness, Lymphatic Filariasis (Elephantiasis), Trachoma, Intestinal worms and Schistosomiasis (Snail Fever).
The ENDFund’s Oyetola Oduyemi, Africa regional Adviser expressed satisfaction on the collaboration to help reduce diseases. He said, “ENDFUND is the largest private philanthropic organization focus on tackling diseases including bacteria, viral and parasitic infection. About 40 percent of sufferers are in Africa. Access Bank which is obviously the most respected bank in Nigeria, maybe indeed Africa generously gave us the platform to spread the word on END disease to talk about preventing this disease that are easily preventable and treatable and we are very appreciative for this.”
Also lending his voice, Gbenga Alabi, Executive Secretary, National Business Coalition Against Aids, NIBUCAA said “Access bank has created an opportunity for NIBUCAA to latch on this event to provide HIV testing services for the general population. More importantly, for athletes and other people that want to know their HIV status. The national population is 1.4 but then a lot of Nigerians are yet to know their status. So we are actually using this opportunity to encourage people today to know their HIV status.”