Despite hiccups, US Agency, Nigerian Partners envision end to HIV in 2030

By Chimezie Godfrey

The US Center for Disease Control & Prevention(CDC) and Nigeria Implementing Partners  on Monday declared their vision of  reaching the target of eliminating HIV in Nigeria and the  world at large by  2030.

This declaration was made  during the ‘HIV & TB Intervention Symposium’ tagged  “Partnering for Sustainable HIV Epidemic Control in Nigeria”  held at Transcop Hilton Hotel,Abuja.

The Head of Treatment Branch  of Division for Global HIV & TB(DGHT),CDC,  Atlanta,Dr.Tedd Ellerbrock, said that since 2004,he has visited Nigeria annually to assess the US Government efforts  to assist the National ART program, including coordinating  formal assessments of the National Care and Treatment  Program,in collaboration with the Ministry of  Health,2008,2010,2012,2013,and 2015.

Ellerbrock stated that  he has,  also as the co-Chair of the PEPFAR Adult Care and Treatment Technical working Group,participated in 40 formal assessments of national ART programs in 20 countries during 2007- 2015. Based on this, “I would like to make several  personal observations about the National HIV Care and  Treatment Program in Nigeria.

“First of all, the result  of the National HIV Care and Treatment Program to date are disapproving.According to  the National HIV and AIDS Strategic Framework,2017-2021,’of the estimated 3million people living with HIV who are eligible for antiretroviral  therapy, only 853,000 (28%) were on therapy.

“For us to have worked  so hard over the last 14years to scale up the ART program  but to be providing life saving therapy to only one-fourth  of those eligible for treatment is discouraging.Going  forward,we must do better,” he said.

Dr.Tedd stated that despite  these disapproving results,the HIV care and treatment  program may be playing an important  role in controlling  the epidemic in Nigeria. The National HIV Seroprevalence  Sentinel Survey among pregnant women attending antenatal  care probably provides the best data to estimate trends over  time of the HIV prevalence decrease from 5.0% in 2003 to 3.0% in 2004.

He said that in 2016,the  HIV prevalence in Nigeria by UNAIDS was 3.2% among the adult population,giving a total estimate of 3.4 million Nigerians  living with HIV.This information suggests that the  population prevalence has decreased and the number of  persons living with HIV may have not changed significantly  since 2004,including that the National HIV Care and Treatment Program may be playing a key role in decreasing  the prevalence.

Though  the continued low prevalence of HIV nationwide is  encouraging,but in the upcoming year , there is the  need to increase  efforts to control the HIV epidemic by identifying more  HIV-infected persons and enrolling them on ART.

He stated  that to accomplish this task,a national population based  HIV/AIDS impact survey is planned for 2018.This survey will  help  to better understand what geographic areas have the  highest prevalence of HIV,in order to  develop plans and  provide resources in more efficient and effective ways. This  information is crucial to achieving the UNAIDS 90-90-90  strategy in Nigeria and eventually achieving control  nationwide.

He added ,” I am confident that we  will achieve control in Nigeria because   I believe in the  capacity of the Nigerian people and government to achieve  their goals.For example,when I  first came to Abuja in  2004.there were wonderful roads but few buildings.Now look  at this great city which has been built in the last 10 years  or so.We can achieve 90-90-90 and epidemic control in  Nigeria,so let’s have a remarkable meeting and a productive  year ahead,”he said.

The DG of NACA,Dr Sani  Aliyu said that the partnership between the US and Nigeria  has been cordial.His words,”Significant number of new  infections are being recorded,having 2million people on ARV  is no mean fit We are working to remove the barriers that  prevent people from accessing treatment,especially young  people.

“Keeping people on Anti-retroviral is not act of kindness but a responsibility.We need to deal with issues with data  transparency,good electronic system,to know how many are  biologically suppressed,how many that are actually taking  their drugs.We need to know how many patients that need  treatment in order to plan with the Presidency and the  Ministry of Health.The president commends 60,000 patients already on treatment at Taraba state,and promised to add  50.000 patients.We cannot have sustainability without  innovative funding,” he said.

Dr.Chibuike Ikpeazu of SACA  in his goodwill message  expressed happiness over “having a  symposium on HIV/TB.I hope for further integration of the  other infectious diseases in order to bring together the  resources that we have.We wiil also bring together the  science to help us move forward.”

Dr Rex,a representative of World Health Organization(WHO) stated that the world at  large is on track on reaching the target of elimination of  HIV on 2030.

“We are glad that almost all countries have  adapted and adopted the implementation recommendations.In  Nigeria we have ‘Test and Treat’.WHO and CDC have identified  the challenges of strategic information system,HIV Drug  resistance among others.We are workiing day and night to  ensure that Global Funding funds catalyse implementation,”he  said.
Nigeria’s Minister of  Health, Professor Isaac Folorunsho Adewole,in his keynote  address appreciated the various national and International  partners for organizing the symposium and their selfless  service to humanity.He decried the very low rate of  identification of persons living with HIV .He said,” there  are estimated 3.2 million people living with HIV in Nigeria 2016 and of this number we have succeeded in identifying only  1million people.We must get it right this time,we need to invest in research.”

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