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Minister says FG to tackle HIV/AIDS as key driver of change


HIV infection

HIV infection

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on Tuesday in Abuja, said HIV/AIDS was one of the key drivers of change the present administration planned to tackle.

The minister made this known at a news conference to mark the 2015 World AIDS Day with the theme “Getting to Zero: Ending HIV/AIDS by 2030.’’

Ehanire, who said that the theme was geared toward zero new HIV infection, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths, added that any increase in HIV/AIDS new cases would have negative impact on the health and economy of a nation.

He reiterated the present administration’s commitment to strengthening the health sector toward achieving the global goal of eliminating HIV by the year 2030.

The minister, who announced that 3.4 million Nigerians were living with HIV as at the end of 2014 out of the 36.9 million persons living with the virus globally, noted that “to achieve our goals, we must continue to tackle the root causes of vulnerability.

“People are vulnerable to getting infected if they are poor and lack information and education that will keep them away from it.

He said that some factors that were responsible for government to take the HIV/AIDS as an important task were the facts that there was no preventive vaccine and its cost of management and control were enermous.

He explained that Nigeria was currently treating no fewer than 800,000 people living with the virus with the Anti Retroviral (ARV) drug and that the Federal Ministry of Health in 2014 conducted two important surveys to collect data of infected persons.

“There was the antenatal HIV/AIDS sentinel survey among pregnant women attending clinics in Nigeria and the Integrated Biological and Behavioural Surveillance among key population.’’

He said that the 2014 survey showed a decline in HIV cases among pregnant women who attend antenatal clinics to 3.0 per cent compared to 4.1 per cent in 2010.

He added that there was also a decline among youths from 6.0 per cent in 2001 to 2.9 per cent in 2014, noting that the reduction was due to government’s intervention.

The minister, however, said that the 2014 HIV Integrated Biological and Behavioural Surveillance Survey showed that HIV occurrence was highest among men who had sex with men with 22.9 per cent, followed by 19.4 per cent among brothel-based female sex workers.

He mentioned that there was a decline in HIV occurrence among the brothel, non brothel-based female sex workers, people who inject drugs, transport workers, police and Armed Forces from 2007 to 2014.

He noted that “HIV predominance among men who had sex with men rose from 13.5 per cent in 2007 to 22.9 per cent in 2014.’’

He then urged all to help in the pursuit of preventing and eradicating HIV, especially among adolescents and youths, mother-to-child transmission, as well as accessibility to care and treatment in the country.

Dr Rebecca Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, said sub-saharan Africa was the most affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, with nearly 26 million people living with the virus, while 800,000 HIV deaths occurred in 2014.

She said it was, however, encouraging that there was a defining moment in the HIV/AIDS response as a result of remarkable progress in the level of prevention, treatment and care for those living with the virus in Africa.

She added that “the region has achieved the millennium development goal 6 of halting and reversing HIV/AIDS epidemic.

“In 2014, close to 11 million people were receiving life saving anti retroviral treatment, which led to the number of AIDS-related deaths reducing by nearly half since 2005.

“New infections have also reduced by 41 per cent in the last 15 years, more than in any region in the world.’’

The director said the achievements were made possible by the responsibility of African governments and many partners through significant financial investments in the HIV/AIDS response.

She added that through these initiative, drugs were made more accessible in all countries and ways of delivering services were also expanded.

“Activism also promoted visibility of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and crucially people living with HIV have been at the forefront of the response.

“We still have to fill the major gaps in the response, stigma, discrimination and punitive laws persisting in our region.

“Children, young people, adolescents and key populations are still left behind.

“Only 43 per cent of people needing anti-retroviral treatments have access, while only 52 per cent of people living with HIV know their status.

“The target is to ensure that in the next five years, 90 per cent of people living with HIV know their status, while 90 per cent of people diagnosed with HIV are offered anti retroviral therapy.

“We also want to ensure that 90 per cent of people living with HIV on treatment achieve viral load suppression.’’

Moeti, however, enjoined all countries and partners to strengthen the fight against HIV/AIDS in the African region to help achieve the aim of ending AIDS by 2030.

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