The Nigerian Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire says the Federal Government is mobilising additional resources, redesigning and strengthening prevention programmes, as part of its efforts to reduce new HIV infections in Nigeria.
Ehanire, said this on Friday in Abuja, at a programme organised by the National AIDS and STDs Control Programme (NASCP), of the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), in preparation for the 2019 World AIDS Day.
The World AIDS Day is an annual global event marked on Dec. 1, to reflect collectively on the past, present and future of HIV/AIDS.
This year’s event has the theme “Communities make the difference”.
Ehanire said the FMMOH would also be developing and reviewing policies that would strengthen prevention efforts and bring up innovations on HIV programmes and services that would reach targeted populations at the community level.
The minister said that the government was aware that the provision of Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART), at no cost to patients, was key to the elimination effort.
“There is evidence to show that PLHIV (Persons Living with HIV), who have undetectable viral load, are not able to transmit the infection to their sexual partners.
“We are supported by United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and Global Fund, to meet the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) 90-90-90 target by December 2020.
“This entails ensuring that 90 per cent of estimated PLHIV actually know their status; 90 per cent of those who know their status are on ART, and 90 per cent of those on ART are virally suppressed,” he said.
According to him, the Nigeria HIV/AIDS indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS), conducted in 2018, provides evidence that the national HIV prevalence is on the decline.
He pointed out that some states of the federation had the largest unmet treatment needs and therefore required more urgent attention.
The minister said that the National Treatment and Prevention of Mother-to-Child transmission (PMTCT), Programme under the FMOH had been strengthened to coordinate the health sector response.
Ehanire said that the Federal Government would continue to address challenges affecting quality HIV/AIDS services to ensure a healthier future for Nigerians living with the virus.
“PLHIV and community groups at high risk of HIV infection shall be engaged in national HIV response.
“We shall sustain our efforts to end AIDS by the year 2030 in line with global goals.
“As we mark the 2019 World AIDS Day, let us join other countries around the globe to say “Communities Make the Difference,’’ Ehanire said.
Dr Gambo Aliyu, Director-General (DG), National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), said there was need to accelerate national HIV response through vigorous community engagements.
Aliyu said that communities had been playing critical roles in the epidemic control and such efforts required urgent scale-up to address the reality of shrinking international funding.
The DG, however, reassured Nigerians of renewed commitment to ending the HIV epidemic by ensuring viral suppression to safeguard the lives of all Nigerians.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Abdulaziz Mashi Abdulaziz, reiterated FMOH’s commitment to ending the scourge of HIV epidemic by 2030, in line with the vision of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS.
“The 2019 World AIDS day reminds every Nigerian of an opportunity to harness the power of people and communities to control the spread of the HIV virus, as it remains the only way to ensure that ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 in the country is possible,” Abdulaziz said.
Dr Araoye Segilola National coordinator NASCP, emphasised the need for intensive awareness to end new transmissions of HIV in the country.
Segilola also reiterated Nigeria’s commitment to meeting international obligations to multilateral agencies as regards HIV and other public health concerns.
UNAIDS Country Director in Nigeria, Dr Erassmus Morah, stressed the need to “humanise’’’ HIV services by including Key populations, whom he described as vulnerable and very critical to HIV intervention.
Morah urged the Nigerian government to factor such groups in policy making and budgeting, and to ensure they were well protected to give them unhindered access to HIV and other health services.
On the 2019 World AIDS Day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) would be highlighting the difference communities are making to end the HIV epidemic; and also be drawing global attention to the need for broader engagement in strengthening primary health care.