From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) said on Thursday that available data confirmed that the figure of new HIV infections in Nigeria was on a decline, an indication that Nigeria will meet the United Nations 2030 target of ending HIV/AIDS in the world.
Director General of NACA Dr Gambo Aliyu disclosed the information at a press conference to herald the 2022 World AIDS Day, with the global theme “equalise” and the national theme “Equalise to end AIDS: equal access to treatment and prevention services”.
Dr Aliyu re-emphasised that unequal access to HIV prevention and treatment services perpetuate HIV among vulnerable population groups, stressing that this year’s event will focus on promoting equal access across population that are marginalized among vulnerable and key affected population groups by removing economic, social, cultural and legal barriers to HIV prevention services across population groups that are vulnerable to HIV.
He said that Nigeria has recorded tremendous success as regards the fight against HIV, as evident in the significant dip in the HIV prevalence of 3.4 per cent in 2017 to a population based prevalence of 1.3 per cent in 2018.
He added: “As at the end of September 2022, we have 1,619,133 persons on HIV treatment, which represents a significant leap when compared to 838,020 persons that were on HIV treatment in 2017. Our treatment sites also increased from 251 in 2007 to 2,262, in 2020.
“Similarly, new HIV infections gradually declined from 103, 404 in 2019 to 92,323 in 2021, while significant growth was recorded in key population treatment centres, 10 in 2017, with a coverage of 16,147, to 118 in 2021, with coverage of over 221,010.”
The NACA boss added that pre COVID-19, molecular laboratory assessment was hitherto done in 27 sites but the services grew to over 100 sites that are accessible for prevention and treatment purposes; and through alignment 2.0, HIV prevention and treatment is shifting ownership to states while guaranteeing continued partnership and support from donors.
He described the launch of N62 billion Trust Fund of Nigeria (HTFN) as a major step towards sustained country level funding and ownership of the national response, adding that “as we sustain the epidemic control achieved thus far, more focus will be directed at ensuring increased availability, quality and suitability of services, for HIV treatment, testing and prevention, so that everyone is well-served.”
He reassured that access to prevention, treatment, care and support services will be intensified for hard-to-reach populations especially those communities circumscribed by conflict.
National Coordinator, National AIDS and STDs Control Programme (NASCP), Dr Akudo Ikpeazu, in her remarks, confirmed that Nigeria was moving closer to its set target through the support of all stakeholders.
She confirmed that 90 per cent of people living with HIV in Nigeria now know their status, while 98 per cent of those who know their status are on HIV treatment, and 95 per cent of those on treatment have achieved viral suppression. “Having come this far, we must work together to achieve the inequality in accessing treatment and other services.
“We still have unacceptable number of children less than 15 years that are living with HIV, and are difficult to find and place on treatment. We must remove all structural barriers that is affecting service delivery.
Country Director, UNAIDS, Dr Leo Zekeng, in his remarks, said the UN was committed to any cause that would culminate in improve services to people living with HIV across the country.