December 1, 2023

Nigeria records progress in HIV/AIDS response- Minister

Nigeria records progress in HIV/AIDS response- Minister

The Federal Government says Nigeria has made huge progress in the HIV/AIDS response and is on the way to ending the disease by 2030.

The Minister of State for Health, Dr Tunji Alausa, disclosed this on Thursday during a media conference to mark 2023 World AIDS Day.

The theme of the 2023 commemoration is “Let Communities Lead.”

Alausa also unveiled some National HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) policy documents, which are meant to strengthen the existing framework for action in order to reduce the spread of the diseases and manage their impact.

The documents are the National Guidelines for Viral Hepatitis Treatment and Care 2023, Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) materials for Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) demand creation and scale-up 2023.

Others are Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for PMTCT scale-up, jingles in 10 languages for PMTCT scale-up (2023), and IEC materials for HIV self-testing scale-up (2022).

According to Alausa, laudable progress in the response to the disease has been made in the last two decades towards ending the epidemic by 2030.

“Nigeria, with the current HIV treatment coverage above 90 per cent, is well on course to meet this goal.

“Currently, Nigeria has 1.6 million people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) on treatment out of 1.9 million.”

He added that communities contribute to the HIV/AIDS response in numerous ways, as their leadership and advocacy ensure that the response remains relevant and grounded, keeping people at the centre and leaving no one behind.

“We cannot achieve lasting progress in our battle against HIV/AIDS without the active involvement of our communities.

“Our communities and community structures are not merely recipients of care; they are champions of change, the catalysts for progress, and the backbone of our collective resilience.”

He also said that the tremendous efforts that have been made by successive governments and other stakeholders to control the HIV epidemic by averting new transmission and improving lives cannot be overemphasized.

Alausa said that in November 2020, Nigeria joined a multi-country learning network called “the HIV Coverage, Quality, and Impact Network (CQUIN)” under the leadership of the National AIDS and STIs Control Program.

This was with the aim of learning and sharing knowledge to support the coordination and scale-up of Differentiated Service Delivery (DSD) for HIV in Nigeria.

He added that other means of progress have been through the scaling up of numerous interventions and services.

While giving an update on the state of HIV epidemics in Nigeria, the National Coordinator, National AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, and STIs Control Programme (NASCP), Dr Adebobola Bashorun, said there have been steady declines in annual HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths.

He, however, said that out of the 1.9 million PLHIVs, 270,000 had not been identified, and that as of 2022, 159,923 estimated children aged zero to 14 years were living with HIV in Nigeria, making it one of the countries with the highest paediatric HIV burden globally.

“Also, 20,364 HIV-exposed infants (HEIs) had Early Infant Diagnosis (EID) samples collected within two months of delivery, which translates to only 21 per cent EID coverage and a MTCT rate of 14 per cent at six weeks and 23 per cent through breastfeeding.

“96,517 estimated HIV-positive pregnant women needed PMTCT, but only 34 per cent were enrolled in Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) in 2022.

“However, 50,676 children living with HIV (CLHIV) were on treatment in 2022, which represents 32 per cent of the estimated CLHIVs.”

Bashorun noted that in spite of the current efforts towards paediatric case finding and linkage to HIV treatment, many children remain undiagnosed and thus without access to life-saving ART.

He added that it was critical to identify these children and initiate ART as early as possible.

On his part, the Chairman, House Committee on AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Control (ATM), Hon. Amobi Ogah, said that it is very important for Nigeria to recommit to reducing foreign support to at least 50 per cent.

“We are not unmindful that over 90 per cent of funding for HIV/AIDS activities through programs in our country comes from foreign partners.

“I therefore call on the Federal Government to look inward in supporting domestic funding because it is high time we decide our fate and not be dependent on foreign aid, which does us no good.”

He, however, assured that the legislature would work towards increasing budgetary allocation to the fight against HIV/AIDS in the face of limited resources.

“We will also provide the legislative framework to protect the rights of people living with HIV and other forms of discrimination and stigmatization,” he added.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), Universal Health Coverage Cluster Lead, Dr Chavan Laxmikant, said that the gains recorded should be consolidated through the creation of enabling environments for community leadership, continued adoption of innovative approaches for HIV prevention, treatment, and care.

“We call on the government of Nigeria and its partners to empower the communities to take up leadership by providing an enabling environment and addressing cross-cutting issues—punitive laws and policies, stigma and discrimination, gender inequality, and violence—that hinder the communities.”

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that World AIDS Day is commemorated on December 1 every year to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, show support to people living with HIV, and remember those who have lost their lives to the infection. (NAN)