BY PATIENCE IVIE IHEJIRIKA,
As part of efforts to encourage self-testing and improve Nigeria’s HIV testing capacity, a Civil Society Organization, CISHAN, has pledged to support government to reach the first 95 of the 95-95-95 global target by 2030.
Executive Secretary Of CISHAN, Dr Walter Ugwuocha, stated this during a media round table for the commencement of the National Campaign For HIV Self Testing in Nigeria, tagged: HIV Self Testing Campaign: Getting 10Million Nigerians to know their HIV Status through HIV Self Testing, held via zoom, yesterday in Abuja.
According to him, the strategy was focused on creating awareness and demand for HIV self-testing in the country.
This, he said will lead to increase in the number of Nigerians who have tested for HIV which is targeted to be 10million by end of 2020.
Ugwuocha said it will also help identify newly diagnosed HIV positive individuals and linking them to treatment in partnership with the Lead Implementing Partners for each state, as well as increase in uptake of PrEP by persons at substantial risk of HIV infection.
Speaking further, he said “Through its over 5000 members located in the 774 local government areas of Nigeria, CISHAN with the support of the media will facilitate access to HIV self-testing kits in both rural and hard to reach areas/populations.”
He noted that the Nigerian AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (2018) results showed that Nigeria was lagging behind in achieving the 1st 95 of the 95-95-95 target by 2030.
The lockdown arising from COVID19 had also significantly decreased access of community members, key and vulnerable population to HIV testing, he said.
“Prior to the lockdown, there had been challenges with thinking around how to address the gap with population access to HIV testing and identifying the unreached HIV positive population. This require re-strategising in ways that communities and community members can take the leadership to drive HIV testing.
“The need to evolve community driven HIV testing strategies was further re-affirmed by the anecdotal field reports by CISHAN during the lockdown.
“CiSHAN had coordinated a national effort in partnership with Positive Action for Treatment Access (PATA), Association of Women Against AIDS in Nigeria (ASWHAN) and the Association of Positive Youth in Nigeria (APYIN) to work with identified community members/advocates in cohorts to deliver anti-retroviral drugs to PLHIV in need of it during the intensive phase of the lock down.
“CISHAN volunteers identified multiple individuals who asked for where to get tested: a gap that could be addressed through access to self-test kits,” Ugwuocha explained.