The Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWAN) says Nigeria accounts for second highest HIV/AIDS burden worldwide after South Africa.
Mr Victor Omoshehin, the National Coordinator of NEPWAN, revealed this at the candlelight memorial organised by the organisation on Monday in Abuja for those that die in the course of HIV/AIDS.
He noted that Nigerians that died due to the scourge would not have died if the government had taken up ownership of the fight by ensuring availability and accesses to HIV prevention, testing, treatment and support programme.
The coordinator who noted that HIV response was largely donor driven with about 93 per cent of HIV funding sourced from external sources, however, said Nigeria only contributed seven per cent of the funding.
He described poor funding and lack of ownership of HIV treatment and care by the country as being responsible for its high prevalence in the country.
According to him, the only way to address this burden was for the Federal Government to take ownership of the fight against HIV scourge rather than relying solely on donor agencies.
“The problem of Nigeria can never be solved by foreigners except for Nigerians and by Nigerians with adequate and realistic budget.
“Budget in all AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria control, prevention and treatment for all the Ministries, MDAs could make big difference if is been released 100 per cent in the life of persons living with HIV in and lives of Nigerians who are not infected,’’ he said.
This, he said, could be achieved by dedicating adequate funding through budgetary allocation by all tiers of government for its prevention, treatment and care and implementing 100 per cent of such funds in fighting the scourge.
He described the treatment gaps in AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, control, prevention, treatment and care support services in the country as worrisome noting that this has led to the increase in HIV prevalence in the country.
Omoshehin who discouraged the view of some segment of the society that those in the legislative arm of government among other wellmeaning Nigerians are immune to HIV/AIIDS however said HIV/AIDS is not a respecter of any persons.
The coordinator however called on the federal and state governments to take ownership and sustainability of HIV/AIDS programmes in Nigeria.
He said: “Evidence has shown that just a government commitment and dedication can change the story of any country health burden.
“Our government can demonstrate ownership and sustain our own burden through increasing the health budget to 15 per cent of the total national budget in accordance with the Abuja declaration 2001.
“Nigeria is the giant of Africa, the most popular Black Country in the world, deposited with various God’s gifted natural and human resources.
“Prompt release of 100 per cent budget for AIDS control, prevention, treatment and care for the relevant MDAs could make the difference between life and death for a pregnant, among others.
“According to the National Guideline on Care and Support Development by the country, Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV) in Nigeria should receive support to cope with the burden of the infection.
“It is the responsibility of government and all groups engaged in providing such services to act within the purview of their individual mandates to ensure that PLHIV access care support and services suitable to their needs in a sustained manner.’’
Similarly, Mr Abdulkadir Ibrahim, the National Secretary of NEPWAN, noted that about 3.1 million people are currently living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria based on the 2015 report by the UNAID and National Agency for the Control of AIDS.
He lamented that less than one million of the number are currently on treatment, adding that 900,000 of the number on Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) are funded by donor agencies including free lifesaving antiretroviral drugs.
According to him, these donor efforts had ensured these people live a quality life and can provide for their families and contribute to Nigeria economy and development.
“There is dwindling of donor support to Nigeria and this has led to increase in the call for improved ownership and sustainability by the government.
“Recently, Global Fund and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) are re-prioritising their interventions and activities they will fund. PEPFAR is currently supporting 32 LGAs in Nigeria with the comprehensive HIV and AIDS services.
“The Global funds as well inform the government that they will continue to support HIV prevention leaving the Nigerian government to take responsibly of treatment, care and support services.
“If the government does not step up her game and take full responsibility of treatment, care and support majority of HIV clients will not be able to access ARVs.
“And if this happens the clients will become sicker and develop resistance to the first line ARVs putting heavier financial burden on the country to acquire the far more expensive second and third line drugs.
“This therefore poses grave danger to public health and to the country in general. So government must take ownership and perform leadership role in the fight against HIV/AIDS,’’ he said. (NAN)