FG: Over 1.6 Million Nigerians Now on HIV Treatment
*Targets 40,000 treatment centres
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The federal government has said it has been able to put 1,619,133 persons living with HIV on regular treatment.
The number represents 98 per cent of the population that had tested positive to the virus.
It said based on the findings it made, government was working towards expanding the points of service from the current 6,000 to about 40,000 locations identified in the mapping across the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The Director General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Dr. Gambo Aliyu who gave an update on government’s efforts, described the achievement as a significant leap when compared to 838,020 persons captured in the treatment net in 2017.
Addressing stakeholders and the media at a press conference to flag off this year’s World AIDS Day in Abuja, Aliyu said the theme of this year’s World AIDS Day which was, “Equalise to End AIDS: Equal Access to Treatment and Prevention Services,” seeks to end unequal access to HIV prevention and treatment among vulnerable population groups.
He said the objective was to promote equal access across population that were marginalised, among the vulnerable and key affected population groups by removing economic, social, cultural and legal barriers to HIV prevention services across population groups that are vulnerable to HIV.
According to the NACA boss, Nigeria’s success story was evident from the significant dip in the HIV prevalence of 3.4 per cent in 2017, to a population based prevalence of 1.3 percent in 2018
“As at the end of September 2022 we have 1,619,133 persons on treatment, which represents a significant leap when compared to 838,020 persons in 2017.
“Our treatment sites have increased from 251 in 2007 to 2,262 in 2020,” he said.
Aliyu disclosed that new HIV infections have gradually declined from 103,404 in 2019, to 92,323 in 2021.
He added that significant growth in key population treatment centres have risen from 10 in 2017, with a coverage of 16,147 to 118 in 2021 with coverage of over 221,010
Also, he said pre-COVID 19 Molecular laboratory assessment done in 27 sites was now in over 100 sites accessible for prevention and treatment purposes
In the same vein, Aliyu said through Alignment 2.0 HIV prevention and treatment was now shifting ownership to states while guaranteeing continued partnership and support from Donors
He noted that the launch of N62 billion Trust Fund of Nigeria (HTFN) was a further step towards sustained country level funding and ownership of the national response.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire who was represented by the National Coordinator of the National AIDS/STIs Control Programme (NASCP), Dr. Akudo Ikpeazu, said Nigeria was steadily moving closer and closer to the targets of eliminating HIV.
“We are certainly proud of the achievements we have made, working together with our partners. Today we have 90 per cent of people who are HIV positive know their status, 98 per cent of these are on HIV treatment and 95 per cent of those on treatment have attained viral suppression,” he said.
Ehanire said the country must all work together to address the inequalities which pose barriers to ending the epidemic.
For instance, he said despite the availability of free treatment services, as of today, Nigeria still have an unacceptable number of children, less than 15 years, living with HIV who are difficult to find and place on treatment. (children 34 percent: 100 percent : 81 percent)
The minister added that some of the specific strides made this year to address access issues included a PMTCT mapping to identify all places where women access delivery services in order to find all HIV positive pregnant women.
According to the minister, based on the findings made, government was, “working towards expanding the points of service from the current 6,000 to about 40,000 locations identified in the mapping across the 36 states and FCT. Our aim is to find all pregnant women, test all, treat all and report all.”
He said there was need to equalise access to essential HIV services particularly for children, pregnant women, key populations and their partners and those in closed settings who are often forgotten.
“To do this, we must, in a consistent manner address and remove all structural barriers that impact negatively on access to services,” he said.
Responding to the report presented by the National Coordinator of Persons Living With HIV in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), Abdulahi Ibrahim, which showed that some persons lacked access to HIV treatment, Ikpeazu said such persons could be those with advanced HIV virus infection.
She explained that much of the progress being acknowledged were in the area of new HIV infections who have been identified through testing and now placed on regular treatment.
In his remarks, Country Representatives of UNAIDS, Dr. Leo Zekeng said though some progress had been recorded in the fight against the spread of HIV virus in Nigeria, there was need to scale up sensitisation and treatment in order to reach those still do not know their status and are outside treatment net.