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How Nigeria can combat HIV/AIDS —US Ambassador

By Victoria Ojeme

The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, has appealed for concerted efforts from all Nigerians to curb high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, saying the war against the disease cannot be fought by institutions alone.

Stuart Symington

This came as the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Abdullahi Abdullahi, said 1.6 million pregnant women have been tested for HIV in a bid to prevent the transfer of the virus from mothers to children.

The diplomat spoke in Abuja at an awards ceremony in honour and recognition of “PEPFAR Nigeria Heroes:16 individuals who have made truly momentous contributions to PEPFAR’s mission since the inception of the life-saving programme.”

The programme held in Abuja on Monday.

PEPFAR is US government’s response to the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and helps save the lives of those suffering from the disease. It was launched by US ex-President, George Bush, in 2003.

According to him, the war against the disease could not be fought by one institution or group of officials ‘tasked by the government’, “people, not programmes solve problems and they only do it by working together.”

The envoy said  prevalence of the disease posed a big threat, urging  “Nigerian government to ensure that its citizens know their status for effective treatment options.

1.6m pregnant women undergo HIV test

Speaking, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Abdullahi, said 1.6 million pregnant women had been tested for HIV in a bid to prevent the transfer of the virus from mothers to children.

He also said more than 1.2 million orphans and vulnerable children received care and support.

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Represented by former Senior Special Assistant, SSA, to the immediate past Minister of Health,  Araoye Segilola, Abdullahi said Nigeria remained committed to increasing domestic funding for HIV control.

“Based on the results of the recently concluded Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey, NAIIS, seven states with significant burden and high treatment gap have been identified to receive targetted interventions. The states are Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Enugu, Imo, Lagos and Rivers,” he said.

He said the US government had spent over $4 billion in national HIV/AIDS response in Nigeria in the last 15 years.

New drug

Similarly, the Pharmaceutical Commodities Logistics Manager of USAID, Babatunji Odelola, said there is a new drug “that just came out for HIV/AIDS treatment.”

According to him, the drugs is called TLD and Nigeria is one of the countries to receive this “because of the kind of commitment and dedication we have from the government.”

“TLD is an antiretroviral drug and it is able to achieve what we call viral suppression very quickly. So someone who is on TLD for four to five months will notice that the virus in his body will start reducing to significant levels such that the person cannot re-infect somebody else and that drug is now available for us in Nigeria to use,” he said.

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