The recent call on the Federal Government to increase public sector funding for treatment of People Living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) by some stakeholders is welcome. The stakeholders made the call at a media screening of Prof. Wole Soyinka’s “Keep the Promise” to AIDS Video Campaign, organised by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF). They also revealed that “it takes just N20 billion to put 50 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS on yearly treatment.”
Also, the Director-General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Dr. Sani Aliyu, observed that “devoting funds for the treatment of persons living with the pandemic by the Federal Government is not a charity but a right as HIV patients are entitled to live happily and make needed contributions to national growth and development.”
Similarly, the Country Director of AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Dr. Echey Ijezie, emphasised the need for state governments to contribute to HIV/AIDS funding in their respective states. The Federal and State governments should heed the call of the stakeholders and commit more funds towards the treatment of people living with the dreaded condition in order to curb the spread of the disease.
Available statistics from NACA show that Nigeria has the second largest HIV burden in the world with
about 3.2 million people living with the virus. It is also estimated that about 600 Nigerians are infected with HIV and about 400 die from the infection daily. Almost two-thirds of all new HIV infections in West and Central Africa occurred in Nigeria in 2016.
While about one million Nigerians were on treatment for HIV, only about five per cent of the affected persons were being supported by the government. In July 2018, UNAIDS revealed that “there were 36.9 million people living with the immune system-attacking virus in 2017, of whom 1.2 million were not getting the drugs they need.”
It is also worrisome that Nigeria is not doing enough in terms of funding the treatment of HIV/AIDS. It is not encouraging that 95 per cent of the funding for HIV/ AIDS treatment comes from foreign donors. For Nigeria to tackle the HIV/AIDS menace, the Federal Government has been advised by the Country Director of the Joint (UNAIDS), Dr. Erasmus Morah, to increase the funds allocated to HIV from N1.5bn to N7.5bn.
It is equally commendable that the Federal Government is considering taking over the ownership of the HIV/AIDS response in Nigeria. We commend the stakeholders for making the call and urge the Federal Government to substantially increase its funding to the war against HIV/AIDS. It is not good that foreign donors bear the burden of treatment of Nigerians living with HIV/AIDS.
We cannot continue to allow the United States and the Global Fund to own the treatment response. We want this ugly narrative to change so that Nigeria can rightly own the project. For the government to effectively tackle the pandemic and halt its march, the state governments should also contribute to funds used in fighting the menace.
Even local governments can contribute to the HIV/AIDS funds. We enjoin corporate bodies and some wealthy Nigerians to come together and contribute to augment the HIV/AIDS treatment funds. All the people living with the pandemic in the country and who are in need of treatment must be provided with the drugs.
We believe that if all the three tiers of government work together in combating the scourge, the war will be won. Let Nigerians and other stakeholders in the campaign against the spread of HIV/AIDS work in concert to avert further spread of the disease.