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EDITORIAL

Nigeria And the Fight Against HIV/AIDS

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The United Nations General Assembly, through the World Health Organisation (WHO), designated December 1 every year as World AIDS Day and since then Nigeria has joined the global community to mark the annual event.

The World Aids Day event is an avenue for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with the virus and to commemorate people who have died of the scourge.

Available records by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) show that Rivers State has the highest prevalence rate at 15.2 per cent of the state’s population. Ekiti has the lowest at 0.2 per cent.

For other states, it is Taraba 10.5%, Kaduna 9.2%, Nasarawa 8.1%, FCT 7.5%, Akwa Ibom 6.5%, Sokoto 6.4%, Oyo 5.6%, Benue 5.6%, Yobe 5.3% ,  Cross River 4.4%,  Ondo 4.3%, Gombe 3.4%, Abia 3.3%.

The same record also shows that Bayelsa has 2.7%, Osun 2.6%, Imo 2.5%, Borno 2.4%, Plateau 2.3%, Lagos 2.2%, Jigawa 2.1%, Adamawa 1.9%, Kogi 1.4%, Kwara 1.4%, Kano 1.3%, Enugu 1.3% , Niger 1.2%, Anambra 1.2% ,  Ebonyi 0.9%, Edo 0.8%, Kebbi 0.8%, Delta 0.7%, Bauch 0.6%, Ogun 0.6% and Zamfara 0.4%.

The United Nations AIDS (UNAIDS) has also revealed that the key populations most affected by HIV in Nigeria are sex workers, with a HIV prevalence of 14.4 percent, homosexuals, 23 percent, and people hooked on injectable drugs, 3.4 percent. Of course mother to child transmission is not to be ignored.

Efforts made to tackle the scourge have varied from awareness creation and information distribution, to the supply of antiretroviral drugs to hospitals at all levels from federal, states to local governments as well as the fight against stigmatisation.

AIDS is the Acquired immunodeficiency  Syndrome (AIDS), a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a sexually transmitted infection (STI), which can also be spread by contact with infected blood or from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breast-feeding.

While there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, there are medications that can dramatically slow the progression of the disease. These drugs have reduced AIDS deaths in many developed nations, including Nigeria.

With the progress being made in curbing the virus however, experts have revealed that no fewer than 2.3 million Nigerians living with the Virus are on any form of treatment even as health experts have raised the alarm over the growing incidence of resistance to Anti-retroviral drugs in the country.

A professor of Haematology and Transfusion Medicine at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Professor Suleiman Akanmu, said only 900,000 persons living with HIV in the country are currently on a treatment programme, as against the estimated total number of 3.2 million persons nationwide.

He blamed the development on inability to carry out routine viral load test, as well as the unavailability of second and third line drugs to treat HIV.

According to him, if there are facilities in Nigeria where people can easily do viral load test,  it would be easy to detect first line failure and consider putting them on second line regimen.

Äkanmu called for more research and support for laboratories in the country to effectively carry out viral load test and, when detected, there should be enough drugs to put sufferers on second line regimen.

While the Nigerian government can be commended on its efforts to curb HIV spread, there is no doubt that Nigeria still has a long way to go in winning the fight against the disease.

Challenges vary from lack of drugs, drug resistance, corruption – as some clinics have been known to sell the drugs to victims even when they are free –  to lack of infrastructure such as the viral load testing machines – as available information reveals that there are less than 10 of such covering Nigeria’s over 180 million population. The culture of silence by victims also remains a problem which hinders access to treatment as well as the issue of stigmatisation, which has frustrated victims.

As a newspaper,  we decry the culture of silence and stigmatisation of HIV carriers and call for the protection of victims in order  to contain further spread of the virus.

This paper as a matter of urgency calls on the Nigerian government to allocate more funds and even a percentage of its annual budget towards the treatment of victims, and the provision  of testing kits, including viral load machines, as well as providing counselling to check the spread across the states.

Also, international organisations and nongovernmental organisations involved in  the HIV/AIDs struggle are enjoined to be more  committed to the struggle against this virus.





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