BY Victoria Ogunrinde
The Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said that Government acknowledges improvements in HIV treatment-coverage despite COVID-19-induced disruptions.
Ehanire made this known in Abuja at the Commemoration of the 2020 World AidS Days.
He said that by the end of June this year, Nigeria had 1,228,100 patients on ART, which he declared is a good 150,000 patients more than we had in June last year, and a fulfillment of the pledge made by President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR to increase the number of persons on HIV medication.
Meanwhile, he stressed on the need to continue to raise awareness about HIV, promote the rights of people living with HIV, and importantly, ensure access to life-saving HIV medicines for them.
“This year has been unique because of the new challenges to our Health System and our lives brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, in spite of which, I am pleased to note we are still on track to ending the AIDS epidemic in Nigeria”, he said.
Dr. Ehanire said “Progress in ‘Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission’ remains challenging, but we remain resolute too in our goal to eliminate ‘Mother-to-Child-Transmission’ of HIV. Through our new thrust for PMTCT optimization, we are giving increased attention to the eight highest burden states; we are strengthening the linkages between PMTCT services and maternal and child health programmes; and very importantly, increasing investment to ensure availability of HIV tests, including HIV self-testing kits.”
The minister while speaking on the theme, ‘United to End AIDS in the Midst of COVID-19’, reaffirmed the critical role of country ownership and sustainability as important elements of the endeavour, including domestic investment, an enabling environment and ensuring people-centered policy-making and implementation. It has also been demonstrated that community-led actions can help improve access and quality of services.”
Dr. Osagie however reiterated that Nigeria is committed to achieving epidemic control and the goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
“We know that intensive effort will be required to achieve this. It is against this background that the National Treatment and PMTCT Programme – NTPP – has been reinvigorated, with the support of our partners, to strengthen the health sector response. We have also adopted new, evidence-based approaches that ensure services are accessible to everyone needing it. The new National Guidelines for Prevention, Treatment and Care and the National Acceleration Plan for Pediatric and Adolescent HIV Treatment and Care are examples of two initiatives which we shall be presenting here today.”
In his remarks, The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, said that it is very apt that Nigeria has chosen a theme “United to end Aids in the midst of COVID-19. Get tested.
He disclosed that with the two vaccines and the trial potentials, Nigeria as a country aligns fully with the global solidarity and shared responsibility which requires us to view global health responses including the AIDS response in a new way altogether.