TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has commended the United States Government for working with the State Government to reduce the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the State.
Also, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Stuart Symington, said that the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) administered by the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), U.S.
Department of Defense, and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is implementing an Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) surge programme in Rivers, to identify and provide treatment to approximately 180,000 PLHIV, who have not previously received such.
The two leaders spoke at the Government House, Port Harcourt yesterday, during a high profile meeting on the promotion of the health of Rivers people.
Governor Wike said: “I want to thank the Government of the United States for working with the Rivers State Government to reduce the prevalence of HIV/AIDS.
“I thank the United States Government for recognising the contributions of the Rivers State Government in the fight against HIV/AIDS”.
Governor Wike assured the U.S. Government that his administration would continue to fund programmes that will reduce the prevalence of the healthcare challenge.
“We will continue to work for the reduction of HIV/AIDS in the state. We are glad that we are partners with the US Government. For us, health is key. Education is key. With Education, you can talk to people on measures to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.
“At present, with the support of the United States Government, we are running 115 sites to prevent Mother to Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS,” he said.
He said that the health programmes of the State Government has yielded results, as the immunisation statistics of the state has moved from 54 percent to 82 percent.
Speaking further, Governor Wike thanked the U.S. government for insisting that votes count in Rivers State during the last elections.
He said that the U.S. government ensured that democracy survived in the country, despite the fact that it came under threat.
It would be recalled that Governor Wike recently announced that Rivers government would pay the user-fees for people living with HIV in the state to access free treatment.
In his remarks, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, disclosed the U.S. government’s $75 million budget increase for HIV control activities in Nigeria, with about $25 million allocated for the ART surge activities.
Ambassador Symington thanked Governor Wike for announcing his intent to eliminate user-fees for PLHIV.
He added, that the U.S. delegation was in Rivers to advocate for elimination of user-fees for people living with HIV, antenatal care charges for pregnant women living with the virus, and other barriers hindering PLHIV from accessing health services.
The ambassador emphasized Governor Wike’s pronouncement served as an example to other states and the federal government to eliminate such user fees.
On August 19, Ambassador Symington paid a similar visit to Akwa Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel.
“The United States remains committed to supporting Nigeria as it works to reduce and ultimately eliminate the scourge of HIV/AIDS among its people”, Ambassador Symington said.
He noted the increased funding to make anti-retrovirals available would enable more people living with HIV to lead healthy, productive lives until the day a cure for the virus is found.
The ambassador noted that disbursement of the additional PEPFAR HIV funds were contingent upon Nigerian federal and state governments reducing or eliminating financial barriers to PLHIV access to services, in particular, fees charged by healthcare facilities for non-essential services or those already provided by PEPFAR.