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.”