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HIV control, AIDS-free generation reality for Nigeria –– U.S.

By Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze, Abuja
10 September 2022   |   2:20 am
The United States government, yesterday, said despite insecurity, COVID-19 and declining economic situation, the HIV epidemic control and AIDS-Free generation, are a reality for Nigeria as they jointly guarantee access to HIV treatment and services in the country.

Tasks FG On Pediatric HIV

The United States government, yesterday, said despite insecurity, COVID-19 and declining economic situation, the HIV epidemic control and AIDS-Free generation, are a reality for Nigeria as they jointly guarantee access to HIV treatment and services in the country.

Over 1.8 million Nigerians with HIV, it noted, are thriving and living productive lives because they are accessible to lifesaving treatment, saying that there is the need for Nigeria to intensify efforts to tackle mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

US Ambassador to Nigeria, Richard Mills Jr., who disclosed this at the Global Fund’s 7th Replenishment Conference meeting in Abuja, said in 2019, President Joe Biden’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Global Fund, and the Nigerian government developed an alignment strategy focused on leveraging comparative strengths and resources to deliver patient-centered HIV services in communities.

He noted that by aligning technical and financial resources behind a single national programme, they embarked on a surge effort to intensify case-finding, and rapidly expand access to antiretroviral treatment, adding that the number of HIV-positive individuals identified and initiated on treatment during the surge doubled, though it was the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said, “There is no other country or HIV programme in the world that can claim this unparalleled achievement. Our national alignment model is a best practice other countries are not only learning from but also adopting. We are extraordinarily proud of this success because it was not accomplished alone, but through close collaboration with the government of Nigeria and your donor contributions to the Global Fund.

“Our key partnerships with national and state governments, the Global Fund, and UNAIDS were instrumental in determining what systems and strategies were needed to gain traction and outpace HIV. Our programmes are also anchored by data from Nigeria’s HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey to guide implementation decisions and laser focus efforts in areas with high unmet needs.

“Nonetheless, sustaining this success depends upon contributions to the Global Fund and all of us standing in solidarity to fight for what counts. We are close to the finish line, but with Nigeria still accounting for one out of seven children born globally with HIV, the race is not yet over.’

The Envoy, however, noted that Nigeria still have a serious battle to fight in the areas of Tuberculosis (TB) and malaria, especially among children under five, stressing that Nigeria has the highest TB burden in Africa and ranks sixth in the world.

“Against the odds, the National TB Programme, through a robust partnership between the government of Nigeria, the U.S. government, and the Global Fund, accelerated TB case notification by 50 percent from 138, 591 in 2020 to 207, 785 in 2021 in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic. While other countries backtracked, Nigeria gained momentum. Global Fund resources have ensured the availability of laboratory supplies and medicines required to diagnose and treat over 200, 000 individuals this year alone! After several years of limited reach, the progress of the past two years – and again, despite the pandemic – has given us confidence that together, even under challenging circumstances, we can innovate, scale what is working, and reprioritise resources to tackle the unmet need for TB prevention and treatment. However, there are still over 300, 000 missing and undiagnosed cases in Nigeria and the risk of disease transmission remains high. Prevention and treatment of TB must remain high on the national agenda.”

Mills Jr., who stated that Nigeria also accounts for 27 percent of the global malaria burden and 23 percent of global malaria deaths, said, “We are expanding access to WHO-recommended malaria prevention tools and strategies, and have a new malaria vaccine, that if funded and piloted by GAVI in the next few years, can be taken to scale through both domestic and Global Fund resources.”

He stressed that by contributing to the Global Fund, all donor countries, including Nigeria, can demonstrate their commitment to fighting global health threats.

The envoy noted that in few weeks, the United States would host the Global Fund’s 7th Replenishment Conference, which has set an ambitious target of raising $18 billion dollars to save 20 million lives globally from the impacts of HIV, TB, and malaria.

Also speaking, the Director General of the Nigeria Agency for the Control of AIDS, (NACA), Dr. Gambo Aliyu said Nigeria pledged $12 million dollars to the last Global Fund replenishment and is redeeming the pledge while the country is looking up to meeting up the target in the seventh replenishment in addition to what we have done last year.

He explained that globally, the target aimed to be increased from $14 billion, which was realised three years back to $18 billion of the increasing needs globally

“Nigeria has contributed in the last replenishment with about $12 million dollars. This time around, we are hoping to see where we can go, whether we can match up to that or we can increase in addition to what we have.”

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