From Fred Itua, Abuja
The United States government President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has delivered a lifesaving treatment to over 1.5 million individuals, more than 83 percent of the total estimated 1.8 million Nigerians living with HIV.
United States Chargé d’Affaires, Kathleen FitzGibbon, disclosed this in Abuja at an event to mark the closing of a United States government activity that made a significant contribution to the HIV response in Nigeria over the last decade.
According to FitzGibbon, the USAID funded Strengthening Integrated Delivery of HIV/AIDS Services (SIDHAS), implemented by FHI 360, has been a leader in a continuum of U.S. government support for HIV control in the country.
She noted that through PEPFAR, the United States also supported comprehensive services to over one million vulnerable children and their family members impacted by HIV.
She explained that PEPFAR is implemented in Nigeria by the USAID, the United States Centers for Disease Control, and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, leveraging the power of a whole-of-government approach to controlling the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“It’s been a great source of pride for me to witness the success of the U.S. government’s partnership with Nigeria to get HIV epidemic control within our reach.
“The U.S. PEPFAR team has worked closely with government stakeholders to urgently reorient the national response to address areas with the highest HIV burden,” she said.
Also speaking, Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN) national coordinator, Abdulkadir Ibrahim, disclosed that SIDHAS project has increased availability and accessibility of HIV prevention, care, support and treatment services in the country.
Ibrahim said the U.S intervention program has supported HIV testing and counselling for over 4.6 million pregnant women, in addition to the provision of antiretroviral medications for over 96,000 women who tested HIV positive.
According to the coordinator, the provision of antiretroviral medications prevented over 24,000 babies that would have been infected with HIV, adding that the initiative also provided a life-saving antiretroviral treatment for over 474,000 people in the country.
Ibrahim further disclosed that SIDHAS also provided care and support for over 74,000 orphans and vulnerable children.
On his part, Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanaire who was represented by Director of Public Health Dr. M.O. Alex-Okoh attributed the progress recorded in Nigeria’s HIV response in the last ten years to the significant financial investments into the programme during the
period it lasted.
Ehanire said: “As we get closer to achieving epidemic control in Nigeria, the discourse has shifted more and more to emphasize the need for greater sustainability.
“I recognise the need to view sustainability from a broad base which includes and addresses programmatic, epidemiologic and financial sustainability.”
According to the Minister, the federal government is contributing 4.2 million rapid test kits into the national commodities pool as part of it’s commitment for more responsive ownership
and increased domestic investment.
Earlier in her welcome address
FHI 360, Acting Country Director, Hadiza Khamofu, noted that SIDHAS has made significant contributions to the national HIV response through improving integration of HIV/AIDS and TB services into the Nigerian health system and helping deliver higher quality prevention and treatment to HIV-positive people and their families.
According to Khamofu SIDHAS began operating in all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory in 2011, and over the years has evolved to focus on “hot spots” of HIV incidence as identified by the activity’s interventions and results.
She said SIDHAS has strengthened institutional, technical, and financial capacities of local health systems in planning, training of health workers, and support for community-based organizations active in the health sectors.
This support, the director noted , has helped streamline and standardize Nigeria’s HIV prevention and care response and improved the geographic reach of high-quality treatment services, most recently through “surge” interventions in Akwa Ibom and Cross River states since 2019.