BY Victoria Ojeme
United State Deputy Head of Mission to Nigeria, Ms Kathleen FlitzGibbon on Monday disclosed that For the first time in modern history, US has opportunity to control the HIV epidemic in Nigeria.
Ms FlitzGibbon made this disclosure during the inauguration of the campaign in commemoration of the 2019 World AIDS Day with the theme, “Communities Make the Difference”.
She said that the theme for the year’s World AIDS Day reflected on the U.S./Nigeria commitments to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic, adding that it highlighted the vital role of communities in controlling and ultimately ending the epidemic.
“For the first time in modern history, we have the opportunity to control the HIV epidemic in Nigeria.
The U=U campaign was inaugurated by the U.S. president’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), in collaboration with the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA).
The campaign is the outcome of four studies which indicated that an Undetectable viral load equals Un-transmittable virus meaning that anyone living with HIV and is on treatment and is virally suppressed cannot transmit the virus to a partner.
FlitzGibbon said that the U=U campaign provided an opportunity to enlighten people and get as many people on Anti-Retrovirals (ARV) and the drugs they would need to administer to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
U=U has changed the way we view HIV and HIV positive individuals, it empowers patients not only to get tested but to also take control of their status with the ultimate goal of maintaining an undetectable viral load.
“With the great partnership we share with the government of Nigeria and other organisations, I am sure that we can achieve epidemic control in Nigeria and all around the world,” FlitzGibbon said.
In his remarks, Senate President Ahmed Lawan said that the inauguration of the U=U campaign was a reaffirmation of Nigeria’s commitment to its National HIV/AIDS response aimed at ending HIV/AIDS by the year 2030.
“Nigeria is on this day launching an important and strategic campaign to achieve zero new HIV infections and reduce stigma for Nigerians living with HIV.
“With the unveiling of this campaign, we are joining the rest of the international community to raise the consciousness of all Nigerians to the fact that undetectable viral load equals an un-transmittable virus.
“The campaign is important to all of us as it conveys to Nigerians living with HIV that their undetectable viral load protects their own health, the health of their families and prevents new infections.
“The campaign is significant for all of us as it will continue to reduce stigma for those living with HIV,” the senate president said.
In his remarks, Mr Eramus Morah, Country Director, UNAIDS said that Nigeria was part of big history as it belonged to the group of countries with the highest number of HIV-positive people on treatment.
According to Morah, it is the desire of the United Nations to see more commitment from governments and individuals to supporting communities, especially those at risk.