The Civil Society for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (CiSHAN), Sokoto State Chapter, said on Sunday that the fight against the virus was being undermined by poor funding and non-release of allocated funds.
CiSHAN Deputy State Coordinator, Mohammed Garba, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigerian (NAN) in Sokoto.
According to him, funding has remained the greatest challenge affecting HIV programmes in the state, adding that the problem, if not addressed, will reverse the achievements so far recorded.
“For us in Sokoto State, it has not been an easy ride. We all know the issues around HIV funding.
“Since the World Bank project stopped in Sokoto, it has been very challenging and difficult getting funding for HIV intervention programmes.
“The last HIV intervention by the state government was in 2014, which was a World Bank project called HIV/AIDS Fund II. Since then, it has not been very easy.
“Due to poor funding and budget releases, the Sokoto State Agency for the Control of AIDS, Tuberculosis and Leprosy (SOSACAT) was only able to organise World AIDS Day.
“Over the years, what SOSACAT has been able to do with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) is, from time to time, come together to organise activities for World AIDS Day.
“But as a major stakeholder, I think that it should go beyond commemorating World AIDS Day.
“There should be activities that should target the population, people like the female sex workers, uniform service men, and the youth, who are more vulnerable.
“This can only be possible if the government is willing to release more funds for HIV intervention,” he said.
He said that more attention was being given to COVID-19 at the expense of HIV/AIDS which had continued to spread among the population.
He said that drugs were still being provided by development partners, stressing that by the time the partners pull out, it would be devastating for people living with the virus.
“My call to the government is that once there is approval, the budget and finance ministries should make sure there is a timely release of funds.
“We may be looking at the current 0.4 per cent prevalence of HIV in the state, but if we relax too much, we all know what will happen – the prevalence rate will shoot up,” he warned.
He said that CiSHAN, with more than 50 CSOs membership, would continue to advocate for improved funding for HIV interventions for prevention and impact mitigation of the scourge in the state.
He said that the group had done a lot in the area of awareness creation and holding government to account, while also providing support to people living with HIV and AIDS.
“We are supporting them with cash, sewing machines, grinding machines and other forms of support for self-reliance, including school fees and transport fare to enable them access drugs in hospitals,” he said.
He advised people living with the virus against self-denial, which according to him, fuels stigmatisation.
He said that CiSHAN was working with Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN) to sensitise people against stigmatisation.
Garba pointed out that the ugly trend, if not checked, could push people living with the virus to infect others deliberately.
When contacted, Alhaji Umar Alkammawa, Executive Secretary, Sokoto State Agency for the Control of AIDS, Tuberculosis and Leprosy (SOSACAT), confirmed the challenge of funding for HIV programmes in the state.
Alkammawa, however, said that the state government was trying it’s best “in view of dwindling resources and competing demands from different sectors”. (NAN)