By Chinyere Amalu
NIGERIA and other African countries have been called upon to adopt the Universal Access approach in implementing strategies to manage the HIV & AIDS challenge.
Making the call during a meeting with Minister of Health Prof. Babatunde Oshotimehin and Minister of State for Health, Dr Aliyu Idi-Hung, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme onÂ AIDS (UNAIDS), Mr. Michel SidibeÂ said the move was necessaryÂ if Africa is to stem the trend of future leaders being stricken by an incurable disease at birth.
Sidibe who was visiting Nigeria for the first time stressed thatÂ Africa has what it takes to produce its first HIV free generation by 2015, cited examples of earlier health sector reforms adopted in Abuja.
RegrettingÂ that about 400,000 children in Africa are born with HIV annually, while 15 per cent of children born HIV positive die before their first birthday due to poverty, ignorance and limited access to treatment, he argued that the situation was unacceptable especially when developed countries â€œrecord zero percent of children born with HIVâ€
He declared that the Nigerian government played an integral role is the successes recorded in health care delivery and the response to HIV & AIDS challenge.
â€œI am convinced that if we donâ€™t engage Nigeria in the fight against HIV & AIDS in Africa we have failed. This is because Nigeria spearheaded a number of health sector reforms in Africa and the world.
â€œThe process s for establishing the Global Fund started here in Nigeria. I am just coming from South Africa where Swaziland, Botswana, have implemented the Abuja accord setting aside not less that 15 percent of their annual budget for health care delivery.â€
Warning that African countries must â€œtake ownership of its national HIV & AIDSÂ responseâ€, he said African governments have no option as 94 percent of its citizens receiving Anti Retroviral drugs are being financed by donor countries.
TheÂ Coordinator for PEPFAR, Ambassador Goosby assured that the global economic meltdown would not affect its donations to Nigeria and other countries.
â€œIt is gratifying to hear that Nigeria has developed a robust, orchestratedÂ response at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. What we need to work on is the deficit in Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) services and short falls in counselling and testing. Despite the global economic meltdown we remain firmly committed to Nigeria â€™s response to HIV/AIDS.â€