The director-general of the National Agency for the Control of AIDs (NACA), Dr. Aliyu Gambo, has said the agency has developed a framework to reach the remaining 700,000 Nigerians living with HIV/AIDs, who are yet to know their status or commence treatment.
The NACA boss made this known recently at the launch of the NACA South-West zonal office in Lagos.
He said although more than 60 per cent of people living with the virus have been identified and presently on treatment, there was need to reach the remaining 40 per cent, who are going about freely in the communities either being aware of their HIV status and refusing to take treatment or even unaware of their status. To achieve this goal, the NACA boss said the agency is establishing zonal offices in the six geo-political zones, which explains why this launch in Lagos.
His words: “If we take 1.7 million as the figure of those living with the disease, we have one million on treatment, that is over 60 per cent, that is those who know their status and are on treatment and are retained on treatment. Then there is the chunk of people about 500 to 700 thousand that are moving about within the community that we have not identified because they have never cared to know their HIV status, and even if they know, they have never cared to come to the facility so they can be captured as coming to take medication. When they have issues, they go to the healing houses and other places; and this is why we are taking HIV treatment to the door step of individuals.
“To achieve this, we are working with the communities, have incorporated the religious leaders, young leaders, healing centres, opinion moulders, political leaders, youths and adolescents, and those at high risk. When we go from door to door, and target those at high risk, we look at where the low and high numbers are and saturate our resources there and make sure every part has access to the services so they can get intervention at their localities. If they do not want to come to our facilities, we understand and we would take the services to them so that we can identify them and put them on treatment.”
Gambo advised Nigerians to know their status, stating that the availability of effective care and treatment has demystified the many myth of HIV such that with adherence to treatment, people can now live healthily as much as 30 years.
“Know your HIV status, when you do, you will be motivated to take action; taking action is looking for Antiretroviral drugs, but if you stay without knowing your status, and if unfortunately, the virus is in your body, what you are doing is dying in silence. The course of HIV has changed over the years and now people can live with HIV for 30 years or more,” affirmed the NACA boss.
Delivering his speech at the event, the Governor of Lagos state, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu commended the recently released report of national and sub-national incidence rates which indicate a reduction in the prevalence of HIV, saying it was a testament to the effort of all stakeholders.
The Governor who was represented by the commissioner for health, Prof. Akin Abayomi however said there was need for more collaboration to ensure further reduction, as Nigeria still ranks the second largest HIV epidemic in the world and one of the highest rates of new infection in sub-Saharan Africa.
He said: “Let us move forward in a bold new spirit of partnership to overcome the cycle of HIV transmission and deliver health and wellbeing for all.
“The recently released report of national and sub-national incidence rates which indicate a reduction in prevalence of the disease is a testament to the effort of all stakeholders. The progress made so far in ending this epidemic would not have been possible without dynamic advocacy, solidarity and a spirit of shared responsibility which must be maintained.”
Sanwo-Olu while commending the location of Southwest office of NACA in Lagos assured that his administration was ready to partner with NACA to achieve the desired goal.