U.S. to help Imo treat 43,000 HIV patients
The United States, through its embassy in Nigeria, has assured Imo State of its support for the identification and treatment of approximately 43,000 People Living with HIV (PLHIV) in the state. This is in addition to over 14,000 people already receiving such treatment through the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) initiative.
Giving the assurance yesterday when she led a delegation from PEPFAR and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to Governor Emeka Ihedioha, the U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission, Kathleen FitzGibbon, described the HIV epidemic in Imo as critical. According to her, the situation requires rapid and sustained efforts for PLHIV to be identified and put on life-saving antiretroviral treatment (ART).
Such a move, she said, will not only ensure that the PLHIV live a long, normal, productive and healthy life, but will also help in breaking the transmission of the virus to sexual partners, thereby improving the state’s health indices and moving it towards HIV epidemic control.
In a statement made available to The Guardian in Abuja, FitzGibbon acknowledged the work that had been accomplished by the government and other stakeholders, who partnered with PEPFAR and CDC over the years, which ensured that over 14,000 PLHIV in Imo were receiving treatment.She noted that considering the over 43,000 others that needed to be identified, “stakeholders must increase their efforts”, as part of the CDC-led PEPFAR ART surge in the state.
The envoy emphasised the significance of Imo in the trajectory of HIV/AIDS epidemic control in Nigeria.Its population, geographic location, diversity and status as a tourism and hospitality centre in the South East make it an important area of focus for the delivery of HIV/AIDS services in the country, she asserted.
FitzGibbon noted the U. S government’s budget increase for HIV control activities in Nigeria, with increased focus on identifying and putting more people on treatment in several states, including Imo.She requested Ihedioha to prioritise the procurement of additional HIV test kits to support the current PEPFAR-initiated surge efforts.
The additional test kits are necessary for identifying PLHIV in Imo communities, she said, emphasising that such urgent intervention would help in moving Imo towards HIV epidemic control by September 2020.