By Olasunkanmi Onifade
Prof. John Idoko, Director-General, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), said recently in Abuja that cases of new HIV and AIDS infection had reduced by 35 per cent in the past four years.
“We now need new commitment and support and we are hereby calling on Nigerians and the country’s partners to renew their commitment to ending AIDS by 2030.
“We have made significant progress but there is still more to do, we have seen in the last 10 years the decline in new infections.
“Funding is a key issue; most of the funds we require go into commodities like drugs, condoms and others,’’ he said.
He also identified inadequate capacity of human and infrastructure to effectively provide prevention, treatment and care programmes as one the challenges confronting the agency.
He, nonetheless, noted that the country needed to fund the 90-90-90 treatment target to eliminate the progression of AIDS, premature death and HIV transmission.
According to him, the 90-90-90-strategy referred to the pathway by which a person was tested, linked and retained in HIV care.
The strategy, initiated by Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), specifies that by 2020, 90 per cent of all people living with HIV will know their status and receive sustained antiretroviral for effective viral suppression.
To achieve the target, Idoko said that private health sector where HIV interventions are delivered should be regulated.
“The major challenges in Nigeria in response to HIV cases are inadequate domestic funding in the face of declining support from donors and inadequate capacity to effectively provide prevention, treatment and care programmes.
“Training and human resource development is severely limited in all sectors and will hamper programme implementation at all levels,’’ he said.
Irrespective of this, stakeholders opine that Nigeria can meet the Sustainable Development goal of ending HIV and AIDS as an epidemic by 2030.
They warn against risk factors that predispose people to HIV and AIDS, noting that the factors include prostitution, high-risk practices among itinerant workers and high prevalence of sexually transmitted infections, among others.
In his view, Dr Bilali Camara, the Country Director of UNAIDS said ending AIDS by 2030 was attainable in the country in the same spirit Nigerians fought the Ebola Virus.
“At the end of 2015, I can say with clarity that Nigeria is among the countries which have halted the spread and reversed the trend of the HIV epidemic.
“There is no doubt that with the fast tracking approach being promoted, Nigeria will end AIDS by 2030,’’ he said.
Camara also observed that Nigeria had the second highest burden of the epidemic in Africa with 3.4 million persons infected.
But Mr Abdulkadir Ibrahim, the National Secretary of Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria, called for willing HIV testing among the people as the first step toward ending AIDS.
He said that the rate of HIV testing was low, urging the stakeholders to address bottleneck in accessing healthcare in that regard.
“Placing fewer than 800,000 people living with HIV on drugs where fewer than 50 per cent of the number cannot access the drugs is worrisome.
“Government needs to own up the interventions , put money on treatment , prevention, care and support to ensure access to HIV and AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria treatment,’’ Ibrahim said.
He appealed to government at all levels to increase the funding and budgetary provision for HIV and AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which he said were highly responsible for high maternal and child death.
Similarly, Prof. James Blanchard, Director of Global Health, University of Manitoba, Canada, called for increased peer-led outreach, condom programming, HIV testing and treatment, to check HIV and AIDS.
“The country needs identified structural interventions and focused prevention in urban hot spot venues and large concentrations of men and women in high risk sexual networks,’’ he observed.
All in all, observers note that as the world embarks on a strategy to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, Nigeria needs political will and commitment of all stakeholders to make sure that the country is not left behind.(NANFeatures)
NEWS ANALYSIS:Ending HIV/AIDS By 2030 Via Sustainable Development
By Olasunkanmi Onifade