Fresh onslaught against HIV begins
Third National AIDS Council adopts new measures to end epidemic by 2030
Experts are unanimous that despite the challenges of inadequate domestic funding, shrinking donor support, a weak health care supporting system, and a poorly coordinated national response, Nigeria has made tremendous progress in 90-90-90, an ambitious treatment target to end Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) by 2030.
According to the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS), 90-90-90 means that by 2020, 90 per cent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status; by 2020, 90 per cent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy (ART); and by 2020, 90 per cent of all people receiving ART will have viral suppression.
The experts at the third National AIDS Council, which began in Abuja on Monday, with theme “HIV/AIDS in Nigeria: Taking Charge of our Future” adopted fresh measures to ensure that more persons with HIV/AIDS are put on ART, and reduction in AIDS-related deaths and new infections especially Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT).
The National AIDS Council is the highest technical decision-making body on HIV/AIDS response in Nigeria and was provided for by the same Act that established the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA).
Participants at the two-day National Council of AIDS meeting deliberated on priority policy and programme issues that will enhance the coordination of the national response. The overarching goal of the third National Council of AIDS was to review HIV/AIDS policy and programme implementation and make recommendations for improved performance, coordination, ownership and sustainability at the national and subnational levels.
Two hundred and forty-three participants representing stakeholders in the national response attended, including Chairpersons for State Agencies for the Control of AIDS from 35 states, Directors General/Executive Secretaries, representatives of recognized umbrella organizations of civil societies and Non Governmental Organizations on HIV/AIDS, representatives of umbrella organizations of persons living with HIV/AIDS, media organizations, youth organizations, women organizations, faith-based organizations, Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), members of the press, representatives of development partners and representatives of implementing partners.
Director General of NACA, Dr. Sani Aliyu, in his presentation titled “Nigeria’s HIV/AIDS Response: Taking Charge of our Destiny” said as at December 2015, there were about 1,078 health facilities offering ART services across the country. Aliyu said over the last three decades, Nigeria has made tremendous progress by placing about 800,000 persons on HIV treatment, including 44,000 children, by testing over seven million people in 2014 only and having about 2.7 million pregnant women having a HIV test in 2015, with 54,000 placed on treatment
The NACA DG said as a result of these achievements, the number of people dying from AIDS-related causes in Nigeria has fallen by as much as 54 per cent in the 10 years up to 2013.
He, however, said these successes would not have been possible without the support of donors, partners and other stakeholders working on the national response.
Aliyu said between 2009 and 2014, the amount committed to HIV and AIDS funding was mostly by the donor/international community to the tune of about 70 per cent with government contributing about 27 per cent and the private sector about 2.1 per cent.
He explained: “With the dwindling donor funding especially by our biggest contributors, which is United States President’s Emergency Preparedness Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), from $488,614,277 (76 per cent) in 2012 to $358,614,280 (70.8 per cent) in 2016, shows that more than ever before, we have to take charge of our destiny if we have to achieve the test and treat strategy of ensuring that 90 per cent of the populace know their status, 90 per cent of those tested are placed on ART and 90 per cent of persons on treatment will have viral suppression to prevent zero AIDS related deaths.”
Aliyu said his goal as the new DG of NACA is to ensure that in the next 18 to 24 months, the issues of actual prevalence rate of HIV in Nigeria through a collective and all inclusive population survey is resolved, uptake of PMTCT services among pregnant women is improved, concerns with data integrity and commence sustainability plans for the States’ HIV response is sorted moving forward.
He said: “As we deliberate over the memos and issues that would present themselves, I encourage us all to deliberate on ways that will help build strong coordinated structures, take the lead in profiling State epidemic and provide strategic direction to all, Invest in ICT and human resource capacity for data and logistics management and ways that will be creative in resourcing the response.
“…I therefore encourage everyone to actively participate in all the council activities so we can merge ideas and proceed with a common goal towards taking charge of the National Response as a country.”
To begin fresh onslaught against HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, the Council approved the following resolutions:
*Strengthening of human resources accountability, sustainability and efficiency at the states/ (FCT) agencies for the control of aids (SACAs) in the Federation.
*Supports the need for tripartite agreement between SACAs, Donors and IPs on donor funded projects.
*Approved that NACA supports the coordination of HIV/AIDS control instates affected by the Boko Haram led insurgency.
*Approved that NACA intensifies advocacy to State Governors in insurgency affected States for internal resource mobilization to complement and sustain donor activities in the State.
*Approved that NACA sets up a central coordination mechanism with key stakeholders to facilitate the coordination and implementation of HIV/AIDS control in insurgency affected States.
*Agreed to formulate policies on HIV in Nigeria that will focus on the disabled persons and prison inmates, wardens and other uniformed personnel.
*Approved that States should step-up budgetary releases for HIV/AIDS response and the setting up of a specific trust fund outside the normal budgetary provision.
*Approved that funding mechanism be put in place to support patients for their chemistry and hematology investigations in all sites and that women groups should be involved in PMTCT programmes.
*Supports the implementation of comprehensive sexuality education that addresses the specific needs of Adolescents Living with HIV and that Adolescents
Living with HIV (ALHIV) should be represented at relevant state and national technical working groups to ensure integration of issues affecting adolescents and young people.
*Government should have a policy against pre- admission HIV tests and other forms of discrimination against adolescents and young people seeking admission into learning institutions.
*Proposes a downward review of the age of consent for HIV counselling and testing and supports the strategy of using wards as a unit of HIV intervention to provide HIV Testing Services (HTS) and the use of HTS community volunteers for mobile HTS in the communities.
*Approved the Conduct of One Harmonized Comprehensive Population Based National Survey, this is borne out of the need to rebase the epidemiological data for Nigeria (NCA/03/50).