Prof. John Idoko, the Director-General, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), has reiterated the need for Nigeria and stakeholders to work towards eradication of AIDS related deaths in the fight against the virus.
Idoko said this in Abuja on Monday at a press conference to present NACA agenda for 2012 World Aids Day.
He said that with the global financial crisis, funding was not as lucrative as before, but added that the target was to achieve zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS related deaths.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that World Aids Day, observed on December 1, every year, is dedicated to raising international awareness about the virus.
Idoko explained that the theme for this year was, "Resourcing the National Response towards Getting Zero Aids Related Deaths".
According to him, last year, Nigeria focused on Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT), and as a natural build up to that this year, the focus is on getting resources to achieve the zero target.
The director-general said that there were a lot of gaps in treatment, adding that currently, less than 500,000 people were on antiretroviral drugs, which was unacceptable because Nigeria had 1.5 million people in need.
"We need resources for people to have access to free treatment to fill in the gap of those 1.5 million people, HIV testing and PMTCT gap.
"Nigeria has the highest burden of PMTCT, as well as the highest burden of orphans and vulnerable children," he added
Idoko said that with the goal in mind, PMTCT sites had been expanded from 600 to 800 in order to increase access, adding, "NACA has become more strategic in addressing this issue".
He said that NACA had conducted a mapping exercise to determine the size of Most-at-Risk Populations (MARPS) to enhance targeted preventive services to curb HIV transmission in Nigeria.
He, however, noted that certain states had a greater burden than others, and focus had been directed on some states including Benue, Akwa Ibom, Lagos and Kano among others.
He said that in 2011, more than two million people were tested, though the target was to test five million.
"This is critical, because if we do not know who is positive, how can we make progress.
"In sub-Saharan Africa the number of new infection is coming down, the number of people dying from AIDS has also reduced," Idoko said.
According to him, the number of people living with HIV and AIDS receiving anti-retro viral drugs increased from 230,000 at the end of 2008 to 500,000 at the end of 2011.
"The number of sites for providing these drugs increased from 296 at the end of 2008 to 491 at the end of 2011," he said.
He, however, said that the biggest challenge remained the need to reduce new infections, by mobilising more resources.
Idoko also said that AIDS alone would not kill, but that attention needed to be paid to related diseases particularly tuberculosis among others.
"The indicator that as far as prevention is concerned our greatest challenge remains the issue of PMTCT and how do we interrupt further transmission.
"Treatment is a very key thing, treatment gives life to the individual, its gives life to the family and in the last two to three years we have also noticed that treatment is a very potent weapon for prevention," he said.
He said that treatment was funded by stakeholders like President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief PEPFAR, Global Fund and the government.
Idoko urged stakeholders, groups, state governments to mobilise funding towards HIV testing, treatment, prevention and research.