…urges FG on eradication by 2030
By Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA- FOLLOWING the withdrawal of funding by international donors to keep HIV/AIDS patients alive and to fight the scourge in the country, Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, have expressed worry over government’s failure to bring succour to people living with HIV/AIDS.
This was made known at a press conference held in Abuja by the Civil Society for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, CiSHAN, in collaboration with Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, NEPWHAN, and National Youth Network on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, NYNETHA.
Chairman, Governing Council, CiSHAN, Dr Remi Obinatu, in his welcome address said the health and life of over 3 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the country have been placed under serious risk and possible spread of the deadly virus.
Obinatu said: “Today and for many years to come, the civil society remains a formidable platform to truly mobilise diverse contributions to the National HIV/AIDS response in Nigeria. Having initially assumed critical roles especially at the state and local levels, the civil society organisations maintain a place as a resource and capacity reservoir.
“The gains recorded over the years in the national response as I mentioned earlier was driving and funded by the United States Government through Presidential Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFTAM), The United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) among other donors and partners. The United Nations on through their Joint United National Program on AIDS (UNAIDS) provided technical assistance to the country in the response.
“PEPFAR in its Country Operational Plan of 2014 and 2015 announced its withdrawal from active support to many treatment centres especially in supporting PLHIV baseline and routine chemistry tests which must be carried out before ART is provided to a PLHIV. They also withdrew from providing essential laboratory commodities to many of their facilities while urging the Government of Nigeria to take over those responsibilities.
“The treatment facilities have in response to withdrawal of support to their sites introduced huge user fees ranging from purchase of hospital cards, baseline and routine chemistry test charges and abysmal reduction in the quality of service provided to PLHIV in the facilities.
“It will also be very important to state that from studies 80 percent of PLHIV are poor and cannot afford to provide nutritional support to either themselves or their households not to talk of being able to pay for these high user fees charged at the treatment facilities.
“The resultant effect of all these is that many of the PLHIV in the country have started to default from adherence to their drugs by missing their routine appointments in the treatment facilities. This will definitely reverse the National Response achievements in no distant time leading to a higher no of AIDS related death in Nigeria.”
Also in his presentation, National Coordinator, Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, NEPWHAN, Victor Omoshehin, said their fate hangs in the balance.
“In most of the facilities now, before you do your drug pick up, you pay like N1000 for the same drugs have been budgeted and paid for by the international community, we pay consultation fee of N3, 000 and N1000 for bleeding” Omoshehin lamented.
The CSOs also urged the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently give attention, commitment and release of reasonable funding to fight HIV/AIDS in Nigeria to meet the 2030 eradication deadline and recommended that for the eradication to be possible like for the Ebola Virus Disease, EVD, local production of ART drugs and HIV test kits should commence, making it mandatory for all tiers of government to start funding expansion and inclusion of people living with the virus in the National Health Scheme.