By Victoria Ojeme
The efforts of government and partners like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has seen a reduction in the incidences of HIV/AIDS from 3.4 to 1.4 per cent in the last five years in Lagos, Akwa Ibom and the Rivers States.
This is contained in the 2018 National AIDS and HIV Indicator and Impact Survey.
Still, the United States and the Government of Nigeria agree that no child should die of the disease.
According to Ms Olivette Smith, political and economic analyst at the U.S. Consulate in Lagos, “through USAID, the United States will continue to work with local partners and support the efforts of the Nigerian government to ensure that all children live a healthy and productive life.:
She said that over the last five years, USAID has partnered with the Government of Nigeria to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS among some of the most vulnerable Nigerians through support for more than 300,000 orphans and vulnerable children in three southern states.
Since, 2014, the Local Partners for Orphans and Vulnerable Children activity, known as LOPIN 1, reached over 260,000 children and more than 50,000 caregivers, providing integrated services in the areas of health, education, nutrition, psychosocial support, protection, shelter and household economic strengthening in Akwa Ibom, Lagos, and Rivers states. Similar activities are ongoing in other regions of Nigeria.
Smith explained that “in a country like Nigeria, young people are the future and by helping this vulnerable cohort of the country’s youth population get access to health care and education and boost its economic resilience, the U.S. government through USAID is helping Nigeria meeting its commitment to ensuring the next generation is ready.”
She said the activity of USAID shifted away from the usual approach to supporting these populations by implementing a more inclusive and sustainable family- and community-centred strategy in-line with Nigeria’s National Priority Agenda.
“As a result, more children have now been linked to lifesaving antiretroviral therapy, helping move Nigeria closer to the United Nations’ goals for HIV/AIDS control,” she said.
Through a large network of indigenous non-governmental organizations led by the Association for Reproductive Health (AFRH), LOPIN 1 helped build the capacity of those NGOs to better address the needs of orphans and vulnerable children.
It also worked to strengthen local health systems in its areas of operation and engaged the private sector to enhance sustainability and access, introducing innovations such as conditional cash transfers, household economic strengthening, community-based health insurance, and village-level savings and loan programs.