8 November 2015

Nigeria: Country's 2030 Target to End HIV/Aids in Jeopardy

Abuja — There are clear indications that Nigeria's quest to end HIV/AIDS prevalence in the country by 2030 in line with global focus is now in jeopardy.

At the recent 70th United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York, US, both President Muhammadu Buhari and the Director General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Prof. John Idoko pledged Nigeria's commitment to end the virus in the next 15 years.

THISDAY checks however revealed that Nigeria may fail to achieve the UN 2030 interruption of HIV/AIDs target unless the federal government takes ownership of the programme.

Experts have raised the fear of the country's poor level of preparedness to take ownership of the programme which has been funded by foreign partners and donors.

As at the end of 2013, the country had 3.2 million persons living with HIV, with a prevalence rate of 3.2 per cent. With these figures, Nigeria has the second largest burden of HIV in the world; second to South Africa.

Also, 747,382 persons are on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) as at the end of 2014. The NACA report also had it that Mother to Child Transmission was responsible for a large population of new HIV infections, which is estimated to be 27.3 per cent. Women constitute 58 per cent of the population of People Living with HIV (PLWHIV).

The 70th UN General Assembly held in September, 2015 set 2030 target for global elimination of HIV/AIDs, while Nigeria had been commended for making a remarkable stride which has led to a steady decline in HIV prevalence from 2001.

Meanwhile, the gains achieved so far may be lost if the government of Nigeria and the states fail to take ownership of the fight against HIV/AIDs as international partners and donor agencies are pulling out, thereby creating funding gaps in the funding of HIV/AIDs programme in the country.

Experts, who spoke on the roadmap for Nigeria to take ownership in order not to miss out on the targeted date, urged the government to expedite action and look beyond the international partners and donors agencies and take full responsibility of the programme.

The position is supported by the fact that the country was given a time frame by the international partners, specifically, the US government, that the Nigerian government should assume ownership of the programme.

Speaking to journalists on the issue, the Chief Medical Director, Federal Medical Centre, Markudi, Benue state, Dr. Peteru Msuega Inunduh said funding from the government has been very poor.

Though he attributed this to the dwindling oil revenue, he however said the government was not just aware of the pulling out of the partners. He stressed that from onset there had been a time-frame to which Nigerian government should assume full ownership of the programme.

He however said from what was on ground, the country seems not to be prepared for the American government's withdrawal of support. Apart from the area of funding which he described as a major challenge, the CMD also claimed that the centres were battling with shortage of manpower, which has also affected work. He stressed that the centres were also yet to receive approval to engage all the trained hands.

Principal Investigator, FMC Markudi, Dr. Jonah Abah, said: "Laboratory services and drugs were no longer been paid for by partners in the last two years, hence the cost of rendering services are no longer free.

He explained that the incentives usually given to clients and transportation for indigent clients are no longer forthcoming.

"The issue of poor staffing is a major problem, which the government must step in as it has affected performance. According to him, when the donor partners were fully in charge, centres carry out daily clinical activities but now, it's three times a week and mainly on appointment," he said.

Also, Mr. Silas Gurumdi of the Institute of Human Virology, called on government to own the HIV/AIDS management programme in Nigeria; stressing "that is the only way to bridge the funding gap."

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