Nigeria has recorded a reduction in the number of persons affected by the HIV/AIDS virus.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who disclosed this yesterday in Abuja while unveiling the Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAILLS) 2018, said that an estimated that 1.9 million Nigerians now live with HIV, placing the country in fourth place in the global burden for the disease.
The survey also revealed that the prevalence rate for persons aged 15-49 is now 1.4 per cent while that of persons aged 0-14 is 0.1per cent.
LEADERSHIP Friday reports that by 2016 Nigeria's HIV prevalence rate among adults ages 15-49 was 3.17 percent and the country had the second-largest number of people living with HIV.
But unveiling the survey in Abuja, President Buhari said that these more accurate figures indicate that fewer Nigerians are affected by HIV.
He, however, lamented that the country cannot celebrate yet, as almost a million people living with the virus are currently not on treatment.
"Now that we have data that will help us target for impact, I urge all of us not to relent in this fight, but to increase the momentum in a concerted effort to end the epidemic ahead of 2030.
"As we mark this important day in the nation's HIV response, I will like to reiterate the commitment I made at the UN General Assembly in 2017 to progressively add 50,000 Nigerians on treatment every year using government resources.
"I also welcome the move by the Nigerian private sector to establish a National HIV Trust Fund in the coming months to support our goal of ensuring that all Nigerians have access to high quality HIV treatment and prevention services."
According to him, for the country to achieve epidemic control and end AIDS, it needs a more coordinated and funded national response.
The president, therefore, directed the National Agency for the Control of AIDs (NACA) and the Federal Ministry of Health to undertake detailed consultations and consensus building with key sectoral Ministries, the legislature, governors of high prevalence states, development partners and civil society to chart a new strategic path, building on the results of the survey.
The survey that revealed the decline in the risk of HIV infection was conducted by the Nigerian government with the support of the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and US Agency for International Development (USAID) and other development partners.
The survey directly measured HIV prevalence and viral load suppression, allowing Nigeria to focus on providing services to the areas with the greatest need to control the HIV epidemic.
The new national HIV prevalence measure is said to be more accurate than those previously conducted, as it is based on an expanded surveillance system and a revised and enhanced methodology.
Meanwhile, the results of the survey have been well received by development partners like the US government.
In his goodwill message at the Abuja event yesterday, the U.S. Embassy Charge d'affaires, David Young, said, "The Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey represents an extraordinary example of what can be achieved by working together."
He also said that the US Government looked forward to increased federal government of ownership and investment in the HIV response to ensure sustainability.
On his part, the minister of health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, noted that though there is a reduction in prevalence, the total number of people affected by the disease was still huge based on the country's population.
He, however, expressed confidence that with the ongoing initiatives like the Saving One Million Lives project (SOML) and the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF), the country would be able to cushion the effect of the disease through the provision of free ante natal care and prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) to pregnant women in addition to other services.
The NACA director general, Dr. Sani Aliyu, said it was important that all people living with HIV in the country receive treatment and achieve viral suppression.
... Aisha Buhari Urges Pregnant Women On HIV Test
Wife of the president, Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, has called on Nigerian women to test for HIV when they are pregnant.
This, she said, will ensure that women living with HIV can receive treatment and give birth to HIV-free children.
According to a statement by her media aide, Suleiman Haruna, Mrs Buhari made this call during a courtesy visit by the executive director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS),yesterday at the State House, Abuja.
Mrs. Buhari thanked UNAIDS for extending the tenure of her appointment as UNAIDS Special Ambassador for the Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV in Nigeria and the Promotion of Treatment for Children Living with HIV by another two years.
This, she said, will enable her to contribute more towards ensuring that no child is born with HIV in Nigeria.
"As part of my contribution to the campaign, I am pleased to inform you that, recently, I launched the Free to Shine Campaign here in Abuja before the presence of relevant stakeholders, including representatives of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), wives of governors, members of the Diplomatic Corps as well as people living with HIV/AIDS," she said.
Aisha Buhari thanked development partners, whose support in the HIV response has been invaluable, and charged government at all levels to increase funding for HIV response using Nigeria's own domestic resources.
Earlier, the executive director of UNAIDS, Dr Michel Sidibe, had extolled the humanitarian qualities of Mrs. Buhari which, he said, qualified her for the ambassadorial appointment last year, adding that he was happy to formalise the appointment, and to extend it by another two years.
Dr Sidibe welcomed the results of a recently conducted survey on HIV launched by President Buhari which indicated positive outcomes for HIV in Nigeria, especially with fewer infections and fewer people living with the disease.
He called for concerted efforts to stop HIV in Nigeria.
"If we don't stop HIV in Nigeria, we will never have a generation free of HIV in Africa," he said, even as he expressed the conviction that Mrs. Buhari has a huge role to play in this regard.