Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: FG Set to Sustain Progress Made On HIV/Aids

Everyday, 1,000 children are newly infected with HIV. This Unicef video, produced for World Aids Day 2012, spells out a number of measures that can be ... ( Resource: World Aids Day 2012: Eliminating Mother-to-Child Transmission

President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday, declared that the Federal Government had the political will and commitment to sustain the progress so far made in combating HIV and AID scourge in the country.

He made this declaration at the Special Session for the 2012 World AIDS Day Commemoration in Abuja.

"Government recognises that HIV is a significant threat to sustainable development and a huge amount of resources will be required to effectively combat the epidemic," the president said.

The president was represented by the Secretary to the Federal Government, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim.

Jonathan explained that a Partnership Framework signed with the U.S. government in 2001, would see a significant increase in spending on HIV and AIDS from the current 25 per cent to 50 per cent in 2015.

"I wish to declare that there is indeed hope in overcoming the virus in Nigeria and government will do its best to ensure this is possible," he said.

He said that the 2012 theme: "Resourcing the HIV Response to Achieve Zero AIDS related Deaths" mirrors the challenges being faced by the country in the fight against the disease.

He added that the 2012 UN HIV and AIDS Report, revealed that much progress had been made globally in the bid to achieve "zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS deaths."

The president said that the report also showed the commitment of African leaders to intervene by showing an increase in investments into HIV initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa.

"I am pleased to note that our country continues to make steady progress in combating HIV and AIDS since the Abuja declaration."

However, the meeting of African leaders in 2001, Nigeria pledged to increase health spending by 15 per cent which will in turn benefit AIDS spending.

Jonathan said that the people living with HIV and AIDS, who now access lifesaving treatment, had risen by about 97 per cent in the last 10 years and that 500,000 persons were now on anti-retroviral.

"In spite of our genuine efforts and the commendable progress made in combating HIV and AIDS, we are still facing several gaps in achieving zero AIDS-related deaths due to the size of our population.

"Over a million people living with AIDS, many of who do not know their status for fear of being stigmatised require treatment.

"In the light of evidence that treatments do not only save lives, but is also a potent weapon for prevention, it is imperative that more investment is made on HIV treatment," he said.

Jonathan explained that funds would be required to provide more testing, counseling and treatment for HIV.

He said that in order to fill in the huge gaps in prevention of Mother to Child Transmission as well as HIV testing, an estimated N700 billion was required to fund the National Strategic Plan.

He said that the decentralisation of HIV services and integration with other related disease at the community level would provide 80 per cent of people living with HIV with access to treatment by 2015.

The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, called for better coordination of HIV and AIDS initiatives.

"Without achieving coordination, we will return here year after year to bemoan our situation," he said.

He said that the ministry was working with the National Population Commission to get more efficient data which would be used to improve coordinate efforts.

Mr Edward Ogenyi, the National Coordinator of the Network of People Living With HIV and AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), explained that AIDS programmes so far had been donor-driven and that it needed to be driven by those who were directly affected.

"NEPWHAN should therefore be seen as a full-fledged partner to all other partners in the fight against HIV and AIDS," he said.

Ogenyim, who was represented by the group's Deputy National Coordinator, Mr Isah Danssallah, said that the group faced many challenges including stigmatisation, inadequate funding and lack of support.

He called for the quick passage of the Anti-stigma Bill into law in order to bring justice to people living with the disease.

"The Nigerian government also needs to honour promises like 2001 Abuja Declaration and for African government to at least reach targets for domestic spending on health and HIV," he added.

He said that the group wanted more than just an increase in the allocation of funds; explaining that after such money was allocated "it should not be inexplicably withheld".

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