Out of 1.9m Nigerians Living with HIV, Only 1m on Treatment, Says NACA


Martins Ifijeh

The National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) has revealed that only about 1.9 million Nigerians are currently living with the Human Immuno-Virus (HIV), and that at least one million of them are taking their Anti-Retroviral Drugs (ARV) to suppress the virus and lead normal lives.

The Director General of the agency,  Dr. Aliyu Gambo gave the figure in an interview with THISDAY yesterday.

He noted that the country was working hard to ensure 900,000 Nigerians, who are not on treatment, were located and advised to commence treatment.

He said if the momentum at which stakeholders“are pushing for the last mile continues, the country will be AIDS free by 2030; the year set aside by the World Health Body to eradicate AIDS epidemics globally.”

Gambo said: “HIV/AIDS situation has improved in Nigeria. We did not know since the last 15 years that we were doing well in fighting the scourge until last year when we did the National HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS).

“The survey revealed that the programmes we have in place are working such that it has reduced the prevalence of HIV/AIDS from 4.4 per cent in 2005 to 1.4 per cent in 2018. This has reduced the estimated number of people we thought had HIV in Nigeria from 3.5 million in 2005 to 1.9 million in 2018.

“Right now, we are on the last mile push. When President Muhammadu Buhari released this result earlier in 2019, he urged stakeholders and NACA to push for the last mile.

“This means we should work hard to control HIV epidemics in Nigeria, and that is exactly what we are doing at the moment. We are pushing hard to see that we fight stigma and discrimination, make HIV testing attractive, and to ensure people know the benefits of knowing their status, as well as for them to take action.”

While nothing that the federal government was planning to include AIDS care in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) package for the benefit of those living with it, he said with the way the country was prioritizing fight against the disease, it will by 2030 ensure the country attains zero or negligible transmission or zero or negligible death from HIV.

He lamented that stigma and discrimination were the top enemies in the fight, as these have prevented many Nigerians from coming forward for testing and subsequently getting treatment for those who tests positive to the virus.

He said: “At the moment, yes. Nigeria heavily depends on donor agencies because as we speak, donors take up over 80 per cent of the bill. What the federal government is planning for 2020, is to make a change whereby Nigeria begins to absorb more funding, putting people on treatment and sustaining them on it.

“The allocation for HIV for 2020 budget has never been this good. It is now very encouraging.  The president graciously approved increment in the amount of money NACA receives. In 2020, NACA will now put additional 50,000 Nigerians living with HIV on the bill of the government. By next year, Nigeria will be treating 100,000 persons instead of the current 50, 000,” he said.