HIV Disease No Longer an Epidemic in Nigeria, Says NASCP

…As NCDC launches 5-strategic health security plan

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCP), Tuesday, said that Nigeria has successfully reduced the threat of HIV disease in the country and that it is no longer an epidemic.

This is sequel to a bid to fast track efforts at lowering rate of HIV disease transmission in the country by NASCP, in collaboration with PELTOM Global Services Ltd, Codix Pharma Limited involving roll out plans for training of healthcare personnel on the appropriate use of HIV 1and 2 Rapid Test Kit.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has launched its strategy and implementation plan for 2023 – 2027.

The unveiling was done at its Health Security Partners’ meeting held in Abuja on Tuesday.

NASCP said that the federal government has been able to implement a testing and treatment programme that has significantly brought the spread of HIV under control.

Under the initiative with funding support from SD Biosensor, South Korea, NASCP will be conducting a 3-day National Training of Trainers (TOT) on WHO approved Standard Q HIV 1& 2 Rapid Test Kit in Nigeria. The training seeks to ensure the right and appropriate use of the product and also to monitor its performance and operational effectiveness on the field.

Following the ToT, over 900 additional testers would be trained across the 774 LGAs through a regional training in all the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria.

Addressing journalists in Abuja on Tuesday, National Coordinator of NASCP, Dr. Ade Bashorun, said the training  will start on Thurday, 23rd November, 2023, in Abuja.

He said: “For us this is training is very important because we need to do everything possible to find out all the case of HIV in our country and after that we must also link them to treatment so that when they are linked to treatment and there are viral loads suppression and retention of treatment, the transmission in the country will be reduced. Increase in testing will also help us to reduce the transmission from mother to their children.

“So the more we do the right thing in terms of testing, the more we reduce the risk of transmission. Now the interesting thing about what we are doing today, regarding the commencement of training for the Rapid test kit for HIV 1 and 2, is that it is an innovative programme which has not been embarked upon in the last 20 years in the country.”

Bashorun said that the outcome of the training will help produce better results from the HIV testing across the country adding that NASCP is committed to ensuring that Nigeria gets the best in terms of equipment and use of the device to drastically reduce the health challenges caused by HIV.

On the integrity and quality of the test kits, he said that all the brands of rapid test kits deployed in Nigeria have passed through quality assessment trials by NAFDAC.

Regarding the availability of the Rapid Test Kits, he said that (Cobi) is working in conjunction with Bio-censors to increase in-country production.

“I can tell you categorically that the training is starting in the next few days. He restated the determination of the government ensure the eradication of new HIV transmission by 2030.

NASCP boss urged people to endeavour to come out and take advantage of the roll out of the rapid test kits in order to know their HIV status.

When asked to assess the state of prevalence of HIV infection in Nigeria and the level of threat it poses to health of the people, the Coordinator said; “We have three stages of HIV disease outcomes; epidemic pandemic and endemic. For instance when HIV started it was an epidemic later it became a pandemic.

“As things are now, it is endemic because we have been able to control its spread and we have been able to control the stigma attached to it. Now we have treatment that can control its spread and make the viral load not to rise or be detected. So at that level, the HIV disease is now endemic because it has been controlled and is no longer threat and we intend to ensure that transmission is totally slowed down to the extent that there will no new infection,” he said.

Meanwhile, speaking during launching of the strategy and implementation plan for 2023-2027 document, the Director General of NCDC, Dr. Ifedayo Adetiba, said: “This newly launched strategy and implementation plan themed “Vision to Action” reflects our commitment to the ministerial agenda for the health sector which has health security as the fourth pillar.

“It also manifests our charge as an agency to advance the impact of health security interventions in Nigeria whilst being SASS (Strategic, Ambitious, working with Speed and at Scale).

“In alignment with the presidential and ministerial agenda for health, the 2023-2027 strategy includes a digital transformation agenda complemented by aspirations for high-quality crosscutting public health informatics. The strategic plan seeks to sustain the strong vision for the NCDC underpinned by clearly defined goals and supported by well-articulated implementation and delivery plans.”

Adetiba recalled that exactly six years ago today, the NCDC launched its first strategy with the theme, “Idea to Reality,” which outlined a roadmap for the agency in its goal to achieving its vision and mission.

He said: “In 2022, we conducted an end-term review of the implementation of the 2017-2022 strategy to identify successes, challenges and learnings which were built on to develop the next five-year strategic plan.

“The changes to the strategy reflect our priority to strengthen subnational health security in partnership with the state and local governments to ensure better coordination and collaboration in the newly created Subnational Support Department.

“Furthermore, the strategy will equip the Department of Planning Research and Statistics with the tools and training to advance monitoring, evaluation, and learning within the agency in line with best practices.

“NCDC’s vision remains “A healthier and safer Nigeria through the prevention and control of diseases of public health importance”. The vision cascades into a mission statement, further broken down into 7 key strategic goals, 41 objectives, and 225 corresponding activities with defined outcomes for the next five years.

NCDC further said that a performance management structure has been instituted to oversee and coordinate the execution of various initiatives to assess NCDC’s progress towards achieving its strategic goals.

According to a statement signed by Adetiba, the framework will prioritize and align efforts across the agency’s departments and divisions, enabling developmental partners to key in for collaboration to protect the health of Nigerians against emerging public health threats and evolving challenges.

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