Nigeria joined the world to commemorate the World AIDS Day this weekend with the theme “Resourcing the National Response”. The global theme is, “Getting to Zero: Zero new infections, Zero discrimination and Zero AIDS Related deaths”.
In Nigeria , about 3,130,000 out of its over 160 million population are infected with HIV virus. This makes the country the second highest in terms of infection, second to South Africa in Africa and third in the world after South Africa and India .
Globally, the HIV/AIDS has reportedly claimed the lives of over 20 million people with an estimated 33 million people living with the HIV virus. The sub-Saharan region of Africa accounts for 25 per cent of those plagued with the virus.
In Nigeria , the current national HIV/AIDS prevalence figure is 4.1 per cent. Regional variations in Kebbi State are put at 1 percent while the highest burden is 12 per cent in Benue State . Seventeen states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory have prevalence rates of over 5 per cent among young adults aged between 15 to 29 years.
According to the director general of National Agency for the Control of AIDS, NACA, Prof. Peter Idoko, while presenting the agency’s score card for 2009 to 2012 at a Press Briefing held in Abuja , told journalists that the HIV prevalence in Nigeria which was 4.6 per cent in the year 2008 has dropped to 4.1 per cent in 2010.
NACA DG revealed that Nigeria has the largest burden of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in the world which is put at about 30 per cent. This report means that about 70,000 children born every year in the country have HIV virus. Nigeria accounts for 10 per cent of the global HIV burden in the world.
Against this backdrop, over one million of Nigerians out of the 1.5 million confirmed people living with HIV do not have access to antiretroviral drugs.
With this year’s theme, the UN aims to fight to finish the AIDS scourge by having zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS related deaths. The reality in the country is that under funding.
The reality also is that in Nigeria , about one million people living with the virus cannot access treatment through availability of drugs. This has grave implications to their health. This implies that pregnant women who do not have access to drugs would continue to deliver children infected with the virus.
The overall implication is that the number of people with the virus would continue to increase and this subsequently means new infections. The bottom line is that there would be non achievement of the zero new infections, zero stigma and discrimination and zero related deaths as projected by the United Nations.
At the Special Session on National HIV Response to achieve the UN theme in Abuja , President Goodluck Jonathan noted the challenges still facing Nigerian’s efforts to combat the disease is due to the large population in the country.
Another factor for the prevalence of the epidemic in the country is that over one million Nigerians living with the virus do not know their status for fear of being stigmatised, the president noted.
Though the prevalence in the country appears to be declining it is rather in a snail-like manner as the issue of funding is creating a big gap. There is still a huge gap in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and testing.
President Jonathan admitted that funding is a major gap and so he said that an estimated 700 billion naira is required to fund the National Strategic Plan for 2010- 2015 for the nation to achieve universal access to HIV services.
For Nigeria to achieve the universal declaration of the 3 zeros on AIDS, funding, they say, should be accelerated. More funds are needed for more people living with HIV to have access to the popular antiretroviral drug.
Presently, the number of people taking the drugs is put at a mere 500,000 and about one million people do not see the drugs to take. This means that these of people are denied treatment.
This year, government has promised to step up commitment against the scourge and particularly to meet up with Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and hopefully eradication of the virus. To achieve this, government has spotted treatment, care and support services from 25 government tertiary hospital in 2001 and now over 458 centres across the country. HIV counselling and testing centres are also scaled up.
Reportedly, over 1,425 health facilities in the country are currently providing counselling and testing services and about 8 million people have benefited from the services.
Government has promised more political commitment to sustain the efforts and progress. There is an increased HIV funding from 2.5 billion to about 5 billion naira in 2011. At the World AIDS Day celebration, government also promised to increase spending on HIV to 50 per cent in 2015.
Also to help achieve this universal feat, there is need for government to make good it’s promise to decentralise HIV services and integration with other related diseases at the community level. This is because it is projected that, this venture would provide 80 per cent of all people living with the virus with access to lifesaving treatment and particularly prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS by 2015, the much target year.
The president, among other promises, had announced that his government would embark on accelerated scale-up of HIV/AIDS through a more strengthened health care system for an enabling platform for delivering comprehensive integrated HIV and reproductive health services in the country.
During the commemoration event, the Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu had announced that as a grand commitment on the 3 Zeros on HIV, government would ensure universal access to HIV/AIDS services through provision of adequate information on HIV/AIDS at community level, creation of demand for services, reduction of stigmatization and discrimination and ensuring accessibility to services at the primary health care level.
The more imperative thing for government to do is to pass the Anti-stigma and Discrimination Bill into law.