The Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. OsagieEhanire said that Government acknowledges improvements in HIV treatment-coverage despite COVID-19-induced disruptions. He said that by the end of June this year, Nigeria had 1,228,100 patients on ART, which he declared is a good 150,000 patients more than we had in June last year, and a fulfillment of the pledge made by President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR to increase the number of persons on HIV medication.
The Minister disclosed this at the World AIDS Day commemoration held on 1st December, 2020 at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja. Dr. Osagie pointed out that 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”, he said.
He recognizes 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, the Honourable Minister said specific policy changes were rapidly adopted, to limit disruptions in access to HIV treatment.
Continuing, Dr. Ehanire said “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 importantly, increasing investment to ensure availability of HIV tests, including HIV self-testing kits.”
He stated that 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 endeavour, 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.”
Dr. Osagie reiterated that Nigeria is committed to achieving epidemic control and the goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. He said: “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 Pediatric and Adolescent HIV Treatment and Care are examples of two initiatives which we shall be presenting here today.”
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, while speaking said that it is very apt that Nigeria has chosen a theme “United to end Aids in the midst of COVID-19. Get tested. “I must commend NACA and our partners for coming with this theme. It will not only capture the focus on the fight against AIDS but has brought to fore, the key global public health challenge we have faced as a nation and globally since the beginning of this year.” He further said, “As Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, we have consciously taken steps at ensuring that as a country, our citizens do not or do the needful to avoid being infected or infect others with COVID-19.”
He disclosed that with the two vaccines and the trial potentials, Nigeria as a country aligns fully with the global solidarity and shared responsibility which requires us to view global health responses including the AIDS response in a new way altogether.
The SGF stated that with the funding of additional 50, 000 persons on treatment annually by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari is a clear testimony of our commitment to global solidary and shared responsibility to leave no one behind and no one dies as a result of HIV; adding that the approved Federal budget for 2020 has adequate provision for HIV to cover this presidential commitment.
Signed: OlujimiOyetomi, Director, Media & Public Relations