Nigerians Living with HIV Should Have Access to Viral Load Testing, Says Lawal

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Ahmed Lawan

Martins Ifijeh

The Senate President, Ahmed Lawal has stated that access to viral load testing needs to be universal for all Nigerians living with human Immuno Virus (HIV).

Stating this during the launch of the U-Campaign in Abuja recently, he said access to treatment and testing will help the country achieve zero new HIV infections and reduce stigma for Nigerians living with the virus.

He said: “With the unveiling of this campaign, we are joining the rest of the international community to raise the consciousness of all Nigerians to the fact that undetectable viral load equals to untransmittable virus. With the unveiling of this campaign, we stand with Nigerians living with HIV to support their goal of viral load suppression.

“As we commemorate World AIDS Day 2019, Nigeria is reaffirming its commitment through all the relevant communities to make the difference in the National HIV response to attain the 90-90-90 goal by the end of 2020.”

He said the campaign was important as it conveys to Nigerians living with HIV that their undetectable viral load protects their own health, the health of their families and prevents new HIV infections.

The Director General, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Dr Aliyu Gambo said this year’s World AIDS Day, tagged ‘’communities make the difference’’, acknowledges the essential role communities play in the global HIV response.

He said earlier this year, President Muhammadu Buhari released results of the NAIIS survey which showed the huge difference communities in Nigeria made in stemming the tide of HIV epidemic.

“Communities working with government, PEPFAR, Global Funds and other donor agencies over the last 15 years succeeded in reducing HIV prevalence from 4.4 per cent in 2005 to 1.4 per cent in 2018.

“This outstanding performance by our communities has put Nigeria on the path of achieving HIV epidemic control. However, it is important to note that achieving epidemic control will require more resources in the form of community time and effort to educate the society, fight stigma and discrimination to improve access to HIV services by every member of the community.

“The efforts of communities are more than ever needed to ensure that HIV remains on the political agenda and galvanize International and National funding for HIV to ensure the UNAIDS 90:90:90 goals are achieved and sustained,” he said.

He saiz the agency will ensure programs for prevention, treatment and care were community compliant, targeted, cost efficient and sustainable, adding that this was possible with meaningful community engagement in planning, budgeting and implementation of our intervention programs.

“Communities are better able to reflect on the needs of the people they represent, lead and implement programs that are cost effective with greater potential for impact. This is the time for us to support communities financially, legally and politically towards a more sustainable response.

“Today, we stand in solidarity with one of our primary community; Nigerians living with HIV. The evidence that people infected with HIV who are virally suppressed cannot sexually transmit the virus to their HIV negative couples or sexual partners has been available since early 2000.

Repeated studies found no single virally suppressed HIV-positive individual transmitted their infection to their partner. Therefore, when Nigeria says that Undetectable viral load equals untransmittable virus, Nigeria is joining the international community in basing her position on solid scientific evidence,” he said.