Address By The Hon. Minister Of Health Dr. E. Osagie Ehanire, At The World Aids Day Commemoration Held 1st December, 2020,Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.
It is my privilege to join you today to observe 2020 World AIDS Day. World AIDS Day commemoration -provides us an opportunity to reflect on where we stand today and remind ourselves where we want to be with regard to the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Without doubt, there is need to continue to raise awareness about HIV, promote the rights of people living with HIV, and importantly, ensure access to life-saving HIV medicines for them. This year has been unique because of the new challenges to our Health System and our lives brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, in spite of which, I am pleased to note we are still on track to ending the AIDS epidemic in Nigeria.
2. I acknowledge improvements in HIV treatment coverage despite COVID-19 Induced disruptions. By the end of June this year, we had 1,228,100 patients on ART, a good 150,000 patients more than we had in June last year, and a fulfillment of the pledge made by His Excellency the President, to increase the number of persons on HIV medication.
I wish to specially recognize the Network of People Living with HIV in Nigeria, NEPWHAN, for the important role they play in reaching patient communities all across the country, and in ensuring that patients could access their drugs continuously, notwithstanding the logistics challenges. In addition, specific policy changes were rapidly adopted, to limit disruptions in access to HIV treatment. For example, ‘multi-month dispensing’ of ARVs, whereby medicines are provided to patients to last them up to three months, has been adopted.
3. Other notable advances this year, some of which build on lessons learned from working in the difficult circumstances of covid-19, include introduction of guidance that enables scale up of "Differentiated Service Delivery", HIV Self testing and targeted interventions for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, especially for high risk populations.
4. Progress in "Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission" remains challenging; but we remain resolute too in our goal to eliminate Mother-to-Child-Transmission of HIV. Through our new thrust for PMTCT optimization, we are giving increased attention to the eight highest burden states; we are strengthening the linkages between PMTCT services and maternal and child health programmes; and very important, increasing investment to ensure availability of HIV tests, including HIV self-testing kits.
5. The theme for this year, ‘United to End AIDS in the Midst of COVID-19’, is about shared responsibility. Shared responsibility is no longer an option. We reaffirm the critical role of country ownership and sustainability as important elements of the endeavor, including domestic investment, an enabling environment and ensuring people-centered policy-making and implementation. It has also been demonstrated that community-led actions can help improve access and quality of services.
6. We are committed to achieving epidemic control and the goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. We know that intensive effort will be required to achieve this. It is against this background that the National Treatment and PMTCT Programme – NTPP – has been reinvigorated, with the support of our partners, to strengthen the health sector response. We have also adopted new, evidence-based approaches that ensure services are accessible to everyone needing it. The new National Guidelines for Prevention, Treatment and Care and the National Acceleration Plan for Paediatric and Adolescent HIV Treatment and Care are examples of two initiatives which we shall be presenting here today.
7. I shall at this point, acknowledge the support of our Development Partners, especially the United States Government and the Global Fund, which jointly are responsible for keeping over one million people living with HIV in treatment. I also appreciate the commitment of the United Nations family, our implementing partners, as well as members of Civil Society for the work they do.
8. Ladies and Gentlemen, as I close, permit me to draw your attention again to the theme, and re-emphasize the importance of HIV testing and of staying united as we aim towards closing the remaining gaps in our strategy.
9. I thank you for your attention.