From: Joe Effiong, Uyo
The Heartland Alliance has raised the alarm over the scale of HIV infections in Nigeria, currently said to be tallying 100,000 new infections per day.
Mr Micheal Akanji, a resource person for the NGO, who spoke in Uyo at a media round table organised by the organisation and the AVAC 2020/2021 fellowship programme, while giving a review of challenges of HIV prevention in Nigeria, said that increased budget, improved access to prevention techniques and sustainability options would help to reduce infections.
He also expressed his concern over the continued high rating of Akwa Ibom in HIV Prevalence Rating in Nigeria.
Akanji explained that the country’s mode of transmission has risen to 83% but while the prevelance among the general population stands at 1.4%, that of men who have sex with other men, MSM, has risen to 22.9%.
He regretted that government’s continued funding policy and emphasis on treatment of infected persons rather than prevention has been counter productive, but expressed hope that with results of recent researches and studies emphasis would soon shift to more funding for prevention.
Akanji called on stakeholders to increase their advocacy on the area of prevention by discouraging cultural and medical practices which tend to discourage prevention of infection among the populace.
Speaking on new biomedical prevention nomethods,the anchor of the AVAC 2020/2021 fellowship programme, Ms Josephine Aseme said that limited prevention technology options, low coverages, increased incidences and poor funding as some of the reasons for lack of access to new prevention technologies.
Aseme stated that the Long-acting Injectable Prep remained the most advanced and most potent prevention strategy and involved recieving an injection of the antiretroviral cabotegravir every two months.
Results of HPTN 083 released in 2020 showed that this method is safe and effective at reducing HIV risk especially among gay men and other men who have sex with men and transgender women.
‘A sister study HPTN 084 also released early results in 2020 showing efficacy among cisgender women. Both are continuing as open label studies while the product undergoes regulatory reviews,’ she explained.
She called on the media to focus more on increased public enlightenment, gender and diversity responses, increased budgetary access to prevention techniques and sustainability options.
The AVAC 2020/2021 fellowship program is anchored by Josephine Aseme and is a community-centered and policy change advocacy focusing on advocating for Supportive Policy and Programs for effective PrEP and other HIV prevention implementations for Key populations in Nigeria to ensure that proven available HIV prevention options are accessible by all persons at risk of acquiring HIV in Nigeria without cost or any form of stigma.
The meeting was aimed at delivering the importance of Government and donor agency commitment in endorsing newly approved and recommended biomedical prevention tools and use of media platforms to create awareness of available service delivery points to actualise increased uptake of HIV prevention and testing services for a better coverage.
It also focused on the importance of GON and donor commitment to a wider array of biomedical prevention options as a game-changer in reducing new infections (Oral PrEP, Dapivirine ring, and injectable PrEP) and investment in community HIV prevention messaging tools across various media platforms and entertainment channels.