Nigeria making steady progress towards meeting global HIV prevention targets — Report

By Luminous Jannamike – Abuja

Nigeria’s steady progress in the prevention of new HIV infections annually, is attracting deserved attention by stakeholders, a latest study by some civil society organizations (CSOs) has indicated.

The report which was released on Monday, the 14th of December, by the CSOs working under the Partnership to Inspire, Transform and Connect the HIV response (PITCH) project reviewed Nigeria’s HIV prevention progress.

The report titled, ‘Nigeria HIV Prevention Shadow Report 2020′ examined the effectiveness of policies and programmes that had been implemented to address barriers to effective HIV prevention programming in 2019.

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It articulated the civil society’s perspective on how Nigeria performed in the implementation of global HIV Prevention 2020 Road Map.

Briefing journalists at the public presentation of the report in Abuja, the Country Focal Person of the PITCH Project, Anthony Nkwocha, commended the Federal Government on the laudable strides made in the HIV response in recent years especially with conducting of needs assessments and setting of national prevention targets.

According to him, the recent key population size estimates was also one of the commendable achievements of 2019.
He however, noted that a lot needs to be put in place to ensure that Nigeria meets both the national and global targets.

“The global target is that by 2030, there should be zero new HIV infection, and countries Including Nigeria signed onto that prevention target.

According to the global roadmap, the Federal Government set a national target of reduction of new HIV infections from 94,000 annually to 23,500 by 2020, which is a landmark year.

“But as it stands, and working with 2019 data for this report, we already have only achieved 82,000 new HIV infection cases, this means that a lot of work needed to be done to achieve the national target, and COVID-19 may have put a clog in that wheel of progress.

“The major challenges that have inhibited the fast track to achieving the targets are: lack of political leadership; restrictive laws and policies; insufficient funding; and lack of implementation at scale of prevention programmes.”

To address these constraints, Nigeria must commit to sustain progress on, and funding for HIV prevention and must protect the human rights of the most marginalised communities,” he said.

Nkwocha also stated that police crackdown, human rights abuses, violence and stigma towards marginalised communities were still common.

Meanwhile, the HIV Prevention Shadow Report 2020 recommended that the federal government create access to prevention services by considering proposals for implementation of comprehensive harm reduction services; reduction of the age of access to Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) information and services; non-stigmatization in health facilities and non-criminalization of vulnerable populations.

It also urged that political leaders recognize the crisis in HIV prevention and urgently increase leadership and accountability in order to secure a reduction of new infections.

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“Nigeria’s Ministry of Health must maintain and indeed increase investment in HIV prevention, including funding for key population-led groups, as these organizations are in a strong position to provide accessible and effective services to the most marginalised,” part of the report stated.

On quality programming, the report urged the federal government to improve systems to track HIV prevention programme coverage and quality, by providing technical support on the issue.

It would be recalled that the continued rise in the global HIV epidemic became a major global concern, leading the United Nations (UN), during the 2016 General Assembly meeting, to commit to a goal to be achieved by the year 2020, popularly known as 90-90-90.

The Goal 90-90-90 implies that governments should ensure that by 2020, 90% of the world’s population living with HIV know their status, 90% of those who know their status are placed on drugs and 90% of those on drugs have achieved viral suppression.

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