The struggle to meet the HIV/AIDS year 2030 elimination target in Nigeria has been of serious source of concern to the Federal Government and stakeholders in the nation’s health sector.
Accordingly, the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), and experts in the health sector have advocated stringent and full implementation of the HIV/AIDS Anti-discrimination Act, 2014, to achieve the global plan to end the disease by the year 2030.
Assistant Director and Head of Survey Unit, NACA, Dr. Ogbonna Amanze, speaking at a training on “New trend in HIV/AIDS,” held in Lagos, said for Nigeria to achieve the world target, it must do everything to prevent new HIV infections.
Stakeholders at the event also said total adherence to the provisions of the Act and working towards achieving solutions proffered in the Nigeria AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS), which was launched recently by President Muhammadu Buhari, would go a long way to end HIV/AIDS disease in the country and aid the achievement of the 2030 elimination target.
Amanze, who spoke on: “Overview of HIV Response in Nigeria (NAIIS) Outcome,” stressed the need for the country to take measures to protect from infection all those at risk, including the unborn, newborn, youth, adolescents, and sexually active adults as well as those exposed environmentally.
With the current prevalence rate of 1.4 per cent, with a total estimated 1.9 million persons living with HIV, Nigeria ranks one of the highest in the world.
He said that Nigeria must put in place measures to suppress the virus in those who are infected in order to avert new infection, and reduce morbidity and mortality.
He said, “we must also provide care and support to improve the quality of life of People Living with HIV (PLHIV); ensuring youth, adolescents, and sexually active men and women are functionally knowledgeable and are HIV-competent citizens.
Amanze said Nigeria must advocate to her foreign donors to keep supporting HIV/AIDS response “until we finally win the battle over the monstrous epidemic.
He further noted that the country must explore and encourage local production of Antiretrovirals drugs, while stakeholders must ensure integrating of HIV services into existing government health programme and financing strategies.
Accordingly, Dr Amanze said NACA should work with National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to ensure that local pharmaceutical companies were licensed to produce antiretroviral treatment drugs, saying Nigeria Nigeria must strive to achieve the UNAIDS 90-90-90 strategy.
“The targets for this strategy is that by year 2020, 90 per cent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, and 90 per cent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy; while 90 per cent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression,” he said.
Experts, however, lamented that the source of funding was dwindling, and warned that funds from foreign donors were gradually winding up, and may stop in the very near future.
All stakeholders also agreed that domestic funding for HIV/AIDS in the country must increase.
Their decision is based on the national preliminary findings of NAIIS, which indicated that the current national HIV prevalence was 1.4 per cent, with a total estimated 1.9 million persons living With HIV in Nigeria.
Current prevalence among females is 1.9 per cent which is significantly higher than that of males at 0.9 per cent. Based on the survey, the HIV prevalence was highest among females age between 35 and 89 years at 3.3 per cent, and highest among males age 50-54 years at 2.3 per cent.
According to Ogbonna, the viral load suppression is 42.3 per cent among those between 15 and 49 years.
He emphasised on the need to focus on the implementation of the HIV and AIDS Anti-discrimination Act, 2014 to achieve better result.
The purpose of the bill, according to the expert, is to protect the rights and dignity of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV/AIDS) by eliminating all forms of discrimination based on HIV status, ensure treatment of those infected and strive to prevent new infections.