…as CSOs task FG, devt partners on implementing action plans
By Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA- THE United States Government on Monday, committed $80 million on survey project for people living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV, across the country for efficient deployment of resource.
This was disclosed by the Deputy Chief of Missions, US Embassy, David Young, at the two-day Civil Society Accountability Forum, with theme ‘Integrated HIV-TB Response in Nigeria: Moving from Rhetorics to Actions’, held in Abuja.
Young said as one of the major donors, the US government was keen on having a reliable data in order to concentrate where the disease remains prevalent in the country due to scarce resources.
Organisers of the forum include New HIV Vaccines and Microbicide Society, NHVMAS, Treatment Access Mobiliser Initiative, TAM, Initiative, Newtwork of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, NEWPHAN, and Civil Society for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, CSHAN.
He said: “One of the things we are working on right now is the survey so we can get good data where the disease is concentrated most. We have limited resources and we cannot invest in every place.
“So we really need to focus our resources to save the most lives. So that is a critical component. Is a big project we are working ion next year in partnership with the government, CSOs. So is something we are going forward.
“This one around is about $80 million, is a big effort and partnership, so lot of energy, hundreds of people working together on the survey. And we spent close to $300 million each year in terms of our efforts to fight HIV and AIDS.
“We started in 2004, and we are well engaged here in Nigeria with well over $2 billion we have invested, and actually in recent years, since 2004 we have spent over $5bn and that makes a tremendous difference, but again that is partnership, that is something US government can do on its own, but something we do in partnership with our Nigerian friends and partners.”
He also acknowledged the effort of the federal government and Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, religious and said without them the donors will not achieve anything.
“What we do is to partner with government, CSOs, religious leaders because really is a team effort, a work of all of us and not something donors can do, it requires effort of the Nigerians government at all levels to put resources into this effort. I think one of the things we need to know is that we need to be smart where our interventions can make the most efforts”, he said.
Meanwhile, the Director General, National Agency for the Control of AIDS, NACA, Dr Sani Aliyu, said the government was making effort to woo manufacturers of antiretroviral drugs and HIV testing kits to reduce cost on taking care of people living with the virus, which over a million people are being treated.
“The key thing with HIV is to understand your status to know whether you have really got the HIV infection. That is one of the key things we have been looking at over the next year in terms of demand creation, but also making sure that those services are acceptable, accessible and affordable. We have a very healthy working relationship with the civil society organization.
“At the moment we have over 1 million Nigerians on treatment. The cost per head is about N50, 000 per patient for year but in terms of long term sustainability we need to bring this cost down and how do we?
“We are already working at it. For instance making sure we have local manufacture of antiretroviral drugs. We are already in close discussion with the company and I believe they have already started producing some of the drugs that are used for treating opportunistic infections and they are about to start producing antiretroviral drugs.
“We also have companies coming into the country to manufacture HIV test kits because is the commodity side of HIV that makes the whole drugs expensive. The drugs and test kits are not manufactured here, and addition to that you have a large number of people who need to assess treatment and screened regularly,” he added.
Speaking on the theme, Based on the theme ‘Integrated HIV-TB Response in Nigeria: Moving from Rhetorics to Actions’, one of the organisers, National Coordinator, Civil Society for HIV/AIDS Nigeria, CISHAN, Walter Ugwocha, tasked the government and development partners on implantation of action plan, which include health facilities delivering HIV/TB services efficiently, everyone tested on HIV gets a TB screening, anyone placed on treatment should be monitored from time to time on TB screening, TB treatment gets to everyone, every HIV facility in the country also a TB treatment facility.
Others are increased funding, international donors no to decrease funding, and CSOs to be committed and also the media should make sure the needed information about HIV to gets to the public.