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Sustaining Progress In Ending HIV Pandemic

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As Nigeria drops from 2nd to 4th position in the global HIV/AIDS burden, PATIENCE IVIE IHEJIRIKA writes on sustaining existing progress.

According to the 2014 HIV Sentinel (ANC) Survey, the HIV prevalence for Nigeria was 3 per cent, representing about three million people and making it the 2nd highest HIV burdened countries in the world after South Africa.

HIV epidemic in the country maintained a steady increase  from 1.8 per cent in 1991 to 3.8 percent in 1993, 4.5 per cent in 1995, 5.4 per cent in 1999 and 5.8percent in 2001. It began a gradual reduction from 5.8per cent to 5 per cent in 2003, 4.4 per cent in 2005, 4.6per cent in 2008, 4.1per cent in 2010 and 3.0 per cent in 2018.

To this end,  the Federal Ministry of Health in collaboration with National Agency for Control of AIDS (NACA),PEPFAR/US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and Global Fund commenced the 2018 Nigeria AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS) and the process of data collection was flagged off by President Muhammadu Buhari on July 16, 2019.

According to the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, the NAIIS 2018 is a cross-sectional population based survey that assessed the prevalence of key HIV-related health indicators. 

The goal of this survey, according to him, is to determine the national and state level prevalence of HIV in the country and the prevalence of Hepatitis B and C at the National level, to assess the coverage and impact of HIV intervention services, and to measure HIV-related risk behaviours using a nationally representative sample.

In his remarks at the launch of the survey, recently in Abuja, the minister said  that HIV/ AIDs remained a persistent threat to the health of Nigerians and compromised past developmental gains especially in the area of Maternal and under five mortalities.

The Minister said that the goal of the survey was to determine the National and State prevalence of HIV in Nigeria adding that the result of the survey would be used to improve health care planning and coordination of HIV/AIDS control activities in the country.

According to the survey, 1.9 million Nigerians are living with HIV. It also revealed that the prevalence rate for persons aged 15-49 is now 1.4 per cent while that of persons aged 0-14 is 0.1per cent.

The survey also ranked the South South the highest HIV burdened region in the country with 3:1 prevalence rate. Akwa-Ibon is leading the region with 5.5 prevalence rate.

President Muhammadu Buhari, while launching the survey in Abuja, reaffirmed the federal government’s commitment to ensuring that the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria was reduced to the barest minimum.

He said these more accurate figures indicate that fewer Nigerians are affected by HIV.

The president however frowned that the country cannot celebrate yet, as almost a million people living with the virus are currently not on treatment.

“Now that we have data that will help us target for impact, I urge all of us not to relent in this fight, but to increase the momentum in a concerted effort to end the epidemic ahead of 2030.

“As we mark this important day in the nation’s HIV response, I will like to reiterate the commitment I made at the UN General Assembly in 2017 to progressively add 50,000 Nigerians on treatment every year using government resources.

“I also welcome the move by the Nigerian private sector to establish a National HIV Trust Fund in the coming months to support our goal of ensuring that all Nigerians have access to high quality HIV treatment and prevention services.”

According to him, for the country to achieve epidemic control and end AIDS, it needs a more coordinated and funded national response.

The President therefore directed NACA and the Federal Ministry of Health to undertake detailed consultations and consensus building with key sectoral Ministries, the legislature, governors of high prevalence states, our development partners and civil society to chart a new strategic path, building on the results of the survey.

Also,  Adewole noted that though there is a reduction in prevalence, the total number of people affected by the disease is still huge based on the country’s population.

He however said the new report has moved Nigeria from 2nd to 4th position globally.

He expressed confidence that with the ongoing initiatives like the Saving One Million Lives project (SOML) and the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF), the country would be able to cushion the effect of the disease through the provision of free ANC, PMTCT to pregnant women in addition to other services.

The Director General, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) Dr. Sani Aliyu said that it was important for all people living with HIV to get into treatment and achieve viral suppression..

‘To halt the epidemic we need to act now. As a government, working with our partners, we have what it takes to support persons who are HIV positive to provide treatment, protect their families and to help people leave long and healthy lives’

Also speaking, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Micheal Sidibe, commended Nigerian government and all its partners for conducting the Survey that provided   a better understanding of the country’s AIDS epidemic. According to him ‘It is a fantastic news that there are fewer people living with HIV in Nigeria than previously thought, we must not let down our guard’

He advised that the results of the Survey should be used for better delivery of HIV prevention, treatment and care service to people in greatest needs, and ensure that Nigeria got on tract to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

The U.S. Embassy‘s Charge d’affaires, David  Young, said: “The Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey represents an extraordinary example of what can be achieved by working together.”

He also said that “the US government looks forward to increased government of Nigeria ownership and investment in the HIV response to ensure sustainability.”

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