Fear has gripped students and lecturers of Delta State Polytechnic in Ozoro, Isoko North local government area following an alleged discovery that some incoming students have high infection rates for the dreaded HIV/AIDS.
SaharaReporters learnt that the reported HIV/AIDS scare has been a contentious issue among the polytechnic community for the past two months. Five students and two lecturers alleged that incoming students were required to give their blood at the school’s medical laboratory for genotype and blood group tests. The sources added that the students were not aware that the blood they gave would be tested for HIV infection.
The students complained that it was not stated in the medical forms given to them nor were they told of any HIV/AIDS test. “It was now later that we began to hear that our extracted blood at the school laboratory, said to be used for genotype and blood group test, was also used to conduct HIV/AIDS test,” said one of the students.
A lecturer at the institution told our correspondent that the test were meant to be carried out in a clandestine manner, but the information leaked out somewhere along the way.
A student who simply identified himself as Robinson disclosed that the school administration had pasted on a notice board the identification numbers of students (but without their names) who were alleged carriers of various diseases, from gonorrhea to HIV/AIDS. The students’ names were omitted to avoid their identification, Robinson said. He added that the notice was removed as soon as the subject created tension and fear on campus.
One of the students said they were not allowed to bring any medical reports from outside the school. “The school authorities insisted that all medical tests must be carried out in the school laboratory,” she said.
A female lecturer confirmed to our reporter that the test were carried out by the school, but that the school administrators had decided to be secretive in handling the matter “in order to save our institution from disgrace.”
Contacted on the issue, the polytechnic’s rector debunked the allegations that secret HIV/AIDS tests were conducted. “I can tell you that there was no such thing in the school,” he said. He added: “This kind of test is not permitted in this school. We don't have HIV/AIDS kits to carry out tests in this school. So where did we carry out such tests? The story is baseless as there is no single iota of truth in it.”
However, the rector admitted that blood was extracted from the students for genotype and blood group tests as part of the school’s routine requirement for new intakes. He however insisted that the polytechnic did not conduct any HIV/AIDS screening on new intakes’ blood.
“Yes in our lab we have the kits to run other tests which we have done. But, as for the HIV/AIDS, we don’t have those kits to run the tests,” the rector stated.
Meanwhile the issue continues to throw up a series of reactions. Death threats were reportedly sent to Felida Essi, the publisher of a local newspaper (Isoko Mirror), whose paper mentioned the issue in its current edition. The publisher alleged that she received several calls last week from the President General of Ozoro kingdom, Raphael Afemare, demanding that she retract the story within 24 hours or face grave repercussions. She said Mr. Afemare warned her that she may not live to tell the story of what would happen to her.
Mr. Afemare is a known electoral thief who was arrested by the police at Ozoro for snatching ballot boxes during the 2011 election. When contacted by our correspondent, Mr. Afemare reacted by shouting at the top of his voice, but denied issuing threats to Ms. Essi.
One of the polytechnic students told SaharaReporters that many parents of the students were gripped by fear over the controversial blood tests. He added that parents had widely condemned the way the polytechnic conducted itself.