Says COVID-19 did not affect treatment in Lagos
By Chioma Obinna
Decades after the emergence of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, the federal and state governments have been charged to take responsibility for treating Nigerians living with HIV/AIDS.
The call came as Nigeria marks this year’s World AIDS Day with the theme: “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact”.
Meanwhile, the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, NEPHWAN, Lagos State branch has said that despite the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic across all sectors, people living with HIV/AIDS in the state had access to treatment courtesy of the Consortium formed by the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
In a chat with Healthy Living, the State Coordinator of NEPHWAN, Mr Patrick Akpan, said the Nigerian government should prioritise the treatment of Nigerians living with the disease as they are citizens of the country and responsibility of the government.
Akpan said though Nigeria was making progress towards achieving the 90-90-90 targets due to the support of funding partners, government failed to take the lead in the treatment of Nigerians. “We should not expect someone from outside to be treating our people even if we will need their assistance and support, let it be that our government has done something tangible before the donor agencies will come in to support.
“For me, Nigerian government needs to do more in the area of budgeting. Health should be given a higher budget and in particular, HIV, to ensure that all Nigerians affected are on treatment.
“The government has not done really well. The support Nigeria is giving to HIV/AIDS is not comparable to what the international bodies are giving to Nigeria. We had a pass mark of 70 percent due to the contribution of the donor agencies but for how long will that continue?
“I can say Nigeria is on track but though we have not really gotten to 90-90-90 targets we are saying let us achieve 90-90-90 before crossing over to 95-95-95. We are hoping that Nigeria is moving towards achieving 90-90-90 but for now, we are not there yet.
“A lot of activities are on right now. A lot of people have been placed on the drug in this 2020 even in the midst of COVID-19. Though the number may not be so big I believe that we are on course.”
Speaking on the impact of COVID-19 on HIV treatment, Akpan said PLWA in Lagos had access to treatment all through the lockdown to date.
He noted that in Lagos, there was no problem as regards access to HIV care because last year, the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu formed an HIV Consortium that brought together all partners including NEPHWAN and other stakeholders in the ministry, UNICEF, and UNAIDs and when COVID-19 came, the group was able to bridge the gap.
“As soon as we heard about the lockdown, we were able to mobilize to get their drugs from their hospitals. Some were given six months drugs, some three months and people that were on second-line drugs were given two months drugs. That helped a lot. So people that were not able to get to the facilities arrangement were made for drugs to be delivered to them.
“For instance, the Centre for Integrated Health Programme, one of the funding partners in seven local government areas also gave NEPHWAN support to ensure that we collect drugs. We were able to get access to the hospital to collect drugs for our members in the seven local governments of Ibeju Lekki, Eti-osa, Mushin, Ikeja, Alimosho, Amuwo Odofin, and Ifako Ijaye.
“In those seven Local government Areas, our people were on ground to ensure that all our members who needed drugs at that time were given drugs. We also have PATA, an NGO that is PLWA- friendly; the Centre for Integrated Health Programme also contracted them. Clients were coming all over the state. PATA tried that all the people who are accessing treatment in LUTH and all PLWAs in all the 20 Local government of Lagos States were given drugs via Coordinators and support groups.
“Before then, we were given online training on how to dispense the drugs and after which drugs were distributed to these coordinators who now gave to people in the communities. People were able to take their drugs without missing them.
“Even some PLWAs who were trapped in Lagos were given drugs. We were contacted and we were able to give them drugs. I can remember a Chinese man who was trapped here in Lagos and we were able to give him drugs. He could not go back to China,” he narrated.