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HIV Burden: Halting The Spread Of A Killer Disease

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As Nigeria strives towards eradicating HIV/AIDS, the call for state governments’ commitment is further heightened. PATIENCE  IHEJIRIKA, writes.

Nigeria is estimated to have about 3.2 million people living with HIV, being the second largest HIV burdened countries in the world.

Out of the 3.2 million people living with the virus, about 1.1million people are currently on treatment, with about 2.1 million gap. This is even as 95 per cent of the treatment funds is provided by international donors.

However, President Muhammadu Buhari, at the 72nd UN General Assembly, expressed Nigeria’s commitment to providing anti-retroviral drugs for additional 50,000 people every year.

Demonstrating this, the president, in September 2017, announced that government will be putting 50,000 persons on treatment every year, in addition to the 60,000 already in Taraba and Abia states.

Also, speaking at the 2018 World AIDS Day event, Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, reaffirmed the federal government’s commitment to increased funding for HIV response and ensuring universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care services.

He said, “To this end, government has for the first time ensured that the funds required to keep all those persons living with HIV on our treatment programme in Taraba and Abia States is fully accommodated in the 2019 budget”.

He also said that government had committed to support an additional 50,000 persons commencing HIV treatment every year in the budgets, adding that in line with its commitment to support people living with HIV to ‘live life positively’, government will facilitate the integration of vulnerable members of the HIV community into the poverty alleviation and social intervention programmes.

Meanwhile, the director general, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Dr Sani Aliyu, revealed that the cost of treating one person living with HIV was N50,000 in a year.

He said that the country currently has an estimate of three million people, requiring HIV treatment at about N50, 000 per patient in a year, which he said translates into about N150billion.

This, the DG said was more than 60 per cent of the Federal Ministry of Health’s budget, as he stressed the need for increased budgetary allocation to the health sector generally.

He also stated the need for state government’s commitment to HIV response, saying that only nine states have more than 50 per cent of people living with the virus on treatment.

According to him, “we still have another two million to put on treatment and we are looking at the various initiatives through which we can get this done. One of the initiatives is to put 0.5-1 per cent to the federal monthly allocation to states towards HIV. This will generate for us, about N26billion that can be put towards HIV programmes and will allow another half a million Nigerians to go on treatment”.

“We have a sustainability roadmap that has currently been rolled across the states. The roadmap is closely linked to the need for state government to start investing in HIV. Only nine states so far have more than 50 percent of people living with HIV on treatment.

“We are not going to achieve epidemic control if you have only 1/3 of Nigerians who are on treatment for HIV. HIV will not go away unless it is addressed and it cannot be addressed without improved funding to realize this.”

He therefore, called on state governments to see investment in HIV treatment as their responsibility to their citizens while commending some states, including, Abia State for fully capturing the 0.5% contribution to HIV treatment from the state’s allocation in the 2019 budget.

He also used the opportunity to stress the need for the Abia State Government to commit more funds to HIV treatment, saying that out of 66,000 people living with HIV in the state, only 18,000 are on treatment, while also appealing to the governor to contribute to HIV commodities particularly, HIV test kits and antiretroviral drugs.

The DG, however, informed that the agency has been working on strengthening its engagement with the Private Sector in the country through the Nigeria Business Coalition Against AIDS (NIBUCAA) in a bid to increase domestic funding for HIV towards a more sustainable response.

According to him, the HIV Trust Fund, which will soon be launched, will provide the platform for more concrete contributions from the private sector. “It is our hope that resources that come through this window will help to close the gap in access to antiretroviral therapy for people living with HIV,” said Aliyu.

He also revealed that the agency has commenced plans with relevant authorities to develop a comprehensive framework that will leverage on existing government’s policies to catalyse production of HIV medicines and commodities in the country.

He emphasized that the local production of high quality and affordable medicines represents the most effective means of ensuring sustainable access to essential medicines.

“As we progress towards putting everybody living with HIV in Nigeria on treatment, NACA will continue to push for increased resources to be dedicated for HIV prevention activities, which include improved access to HIV testing and widespread availability of self-test kits”, said Aliyu.

Emphasizing the need for improved access to HIV testing, UNAIDS Country Director, Nigeria, Mr. Erasmus Morah, at the 2018 World AIDS Day event, said the theme of the event  was particularly apt since Nigeria’ s 2017 treatment data showed that the main challenge towards attainment of its targets was that of having many people living with HIV in the country know their status.

According to him, “the UNAIDS launched the new report on knowledge is power that highlights how providing a variety of testing options and services, such as community-based testing and home-based testing, can help mitigate many of the logistical, structural and social barriers to HIV testing.”

 

 

 

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