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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

$8bn needed yearly to fight HIV/AIDS in Nigeria- House committee

The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Control, Amobi Ogah, on Tuesday said Nigeria needs an estimated $8bn annually to sustain the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Ogah said this at the opening ceremony of the 2024 Nigeria HIV prevention conference themed, ‘Accelerating HIV prevention to end AIDS through innovations and community engagement,’ organised by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, in Abuja.

The conference is aimed at optimising innovative HIV prevention approaches towards achieving epidemic control, promoting an equitable and inclusive human rights-based approach to HIV prevention, and strategising for increased domestic funding towards community ownership and sustainability of HIV.

Ogah stated that there is a need to change the narrative by increasing local funding in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

An estimated 1.8 million persons are estimated to be living with HIV in Nigeria, out of which about 1.63 million are already on the lifesaving medication of Antiretroviral Therapy, and Nigeria has the highest burden of children born with HIV in the world.

Ogah said the target to eliminate Mother-To-Child Transmission of HIV showcase by the year 2030 is still a long way off as the national coverage of Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission is less than 50 per cent, leading to about 22,000 cases of MTCT of HIV every year in Nigeria.

Hence, he noted that there is a need to re-evaluate, rethink, and re-strategise HIV prevention intervention programmes.

“For NACA to achieve her mandate, we must all ensure the increase of domestic funding, strengthening HIV interventions, mobilising community members for gender equality, social norms and gender equality in the optic of HIV prevention, treatment, and care service, particularly the PMTCT of HIV, support people living with and affected by HIV, the campaign against the stigmatisation and discrimination of persons living with HIV/AIDS, and ensure leadership action for these and key population communities among other interventions.

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“NACA will also need to scale up its treatment centres, which is about 100. I think we should increase it to at least 300 by the end of 2024. To stem the tide and sustain the fight to end HIV through AIDS as a public health threat, funding is critical. An estimated $8 billion is needed annually to sustain the fight against HIV AIDS,” he noted.

He emphasised that the committee will continue to advocate for an increase in funding to the sector, provide legislation that will promote comprehensive healthcare, support research, ensure access to quality treatment and strengthen partnerships crucial to the collective success.

“We will double up our oversight functions to ensure that funds budgeted for HIV/AIDS response are used for the purpose for which they are meant.

“The National Assembly, as a representative of our communities and people will continue to provide strong leadership that will engender robust collaborations and partnerships with relevant stakeholders and to achieve the focus set goal that HIV AIDS is no longer a public health threat in Nigeria by 2030,” he added.

In her welcome address, the Director General of NACA, Dr Temitope Ilori said the theme of the conference underscores the importance of community involvement in shaping effective prevention strategies while ensuring access to treatment for those living with HIV/AIDS.

Dr Ilori said despite the achievements made in the fight against the disease, the work is far from over.

“We must redouble our efforts to prevent MTCT and strive for an AIDS-free generation by 2030, leveraging the advancements in health technology at our disposal.

“Prevention lies at the core of our public health interventions. Therefore, this conference serves as a platform to explore innovative approaches to empower communities, particularly those at higher risk, with the knowledge and tools to protect themselves from HIV infection.

“Stigma and discrimination remain significant barriers to achieving our goals by 2030. We must educate and sensitise people about the harmful effects of stigma and discrimination against individuals living with HIV/AIDS.

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“Our strategies must be inclusive, person-centred, and sensitive to the needs of adolescents, young people, key populations, and people living with HIV/AIDS. We must also focus on community-based interventions while promoting local ownership and sustainability of our response efforts,” she said.

On his part, the UNAIDS Country Director, Dr Leo Zekeng said reducing new HIV infections is possible because the country has the tools to provide combination prevention.

He, however, said prevention of HIV alone will not lead the country to achieve its goal.

“Everyone must be involved. We need to find out at the state level how much is put towards prevention, we need to political commitment.

“Investment in condoms has reduced, and data remains a challenge. So, this is the time to invest in primary prevention, and chart a new course on reducing new infections in Nigeria,” Zekeng stated.

Gracie Brown
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