By Victor Ahiuma-Young
PEOPLE living with HIV/AIDS, and 11 other groups weekend in Abuja, petitioned the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole and his Labour and Employment counterpart, Senator Chris Ngige raising alarm that the ongoing health workers strike was worsening their situations.
They threatened to hold both Ministers accountable for any death of members or any other negative consequences the protracted industrial action would have on their lives or treatment.
The petition was signed by Civil Society for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, CiSHAN, Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, NEPWHAN, Nigeria Diversity Network, NDN, Network of Religious Leaders Against HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, NINERELA, Civil Society Platform on Health, Treatment Action Movement, TAM, Initiative, Nigerian Network of Youths Against HIV/AIDS, NYNETHA, Association of Women Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, ASHWAN, New HIV/AIDS Microbicide Advocacy Group, NHVMAS, Media Arts and Entertainment Network, Association of Positive Youth in Nigeria, APYIN, and Society for Women and AIDS in Africa, Nigerian, SWAAN.
The petition reads in part: “We in the Civil Society for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria and Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria wish to draw your attention to the negative impact the ongoing strike by the Joint Health Workers Union, JOHESU, is having on People Living with HIV/AIDS, PLHIV, who are accessing care and treatment across government facilities nationwide.
“Currently, the facilities have been shut down completely by the striking workers necessitating our members who have clinic appointment for their life saving drugs to miss their appointment.”
Technical Officers who work for Implementing Partners cannot access the facilities to retrieve vital medical information of clients to enable them provide alternative treatment facilities where drugs can be accessed by those in need of it. Whereas 95% of HIV/AIDS treatment in Nigeria is supported by donors, shutting the facilities amount to sabotage of their investment in the AIDS response in particular and Nigeria in general.
“This is added to the fact that we are at a critical stage of the HIV/AIDS National Response in which the National AIDS Indicator Survey (NAIIS) is about to commence. This strike is a potential threat to the survey of which huge resources has been invested and committed to it. This survey happens to be the largest survey ever to be conducted in the world and it is happening in Nigeria. We therefore cannot afford to fail the international community.
“While we are engaging with the National leadership of JOHESU to grant our implementing partners access to the facilities, we use this opportunity to urge you as a matter of national emergency to immediately resolve all the issues in contention with the health workers union amicably to enable the striking workers return to duty in providing continuum of care to people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.
We cannot afford to record any AIDS related death or continued blockage of AIDS response implementing partners to supported facilities where treatment is provided to those in severe need of it as this will lead to a reversal of the gains attained in fighting HIV/AIDS, possible withdrawal of funding by the international donors as well as making us to miss the goal of ending AIDS in Nigeria.
“We will hold you responsible if any AIDS related death occurs as a result of this strike.
We will hold you responsible if we cannot access the health facilities to conduct the National AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS). We will hold you responsible if international donors withdraw their funding as a result of their inability to access the treatment supported facilities.”