- The director-general of NACA has said that communities across the country will help Nigeria control the HIV epidemic
- Gambo Aliyu said in 15 years, Nigeria, through the partnership with communities and global donors, have succeeded in reducing HIV prevalence from 4.4 per cent to 1.4 per cent
- According to the NACA DG, such outstanding performance by the nation's communities has put Nigeria on the path of achieving HIV epidemic control
The Nigerian government has said that communities across the country could help the nation in controlling the HIV epidemic in Nigeria.
The director-general of the National Agency for Control of AIDS (NACA), Aliyu Gambo, on Monday, November 25, said the communities will be made up of networks of people living with or are affected by HIV, women and young people, peer educators and counsellors.
Other members of the communities, the Gambo said will also include community health workers, door-to-door service providers, civil society organizations, media, religious leaders, traditional rulers, policymakers, implementing partners and activists.
Speaking at the official launch of the Undetectable Equals Untransmittable (U=U) campaign in Nigeria in Abuja, Gambo said Nigeria along with donor agencies, non-governmental organizations, civil societies, communities at risk of HIV among many others have succeeded in reducing HIV prevalence from 4.4% in 2005 to 1.4% in 2018.
He said this year's World AIDS day themed "communities make the difference" acknowledges the essential role communities play in the global HIV response.
Gambo said it is important to note that achieving epidemic control will require more resources in the form of community time and effort to educate the society, fight stigma and discrimination to improve access to HIV services by every member of the community.
He said that efforts made by community members in the control of the HIV epidemic are needed no more than ever needed to ensure that the spread of the disease remains on the political agenda.
According to Gambo, such collaboration will galvanize International and national funding for HIV to ensure that the achievement and sustenance of the UNAIDS 90:90:90 which targets that by 2020, 90 per cent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status; 90 per cent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90 per cent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
Stating that in 15 years, Nigeria through the partnership with communities and global donors have succeeded in reducing HIV prevalence from 4.4 per cent to 1.4 per cent, Gambo said the outstanding performance by the communities has put Nigeria on the path of achieving HIV epidemic control.
Gambo said: "Importantly, we need to ensure our programs for prevention, treatment and care are community compliant, targeted, cost-efficient and sustainable."
"This is possible with meaningful community engagement in planning, budgeting and implementation of our intervention programs. Communities are better able to reflect on the needs of the people they represent, lead and implement programs that are cost-effective with greater potential for impact," Gambo said.
Gambo added that this is the time for all to support communities financially, legally and politically towards a more sustainable response.
"Therefore, when Nigeria says that Undetectable viral load equals Untransmittable virus, Nigeria is joining the international community in basing her position on solid scientific evidence," he said.
He also said that the drive for undetectable viral load in order to achieve untransmittable virus is promoting the benefits of ARV treatment for Nigerians living with HIV while encouraging more HIV positive Nigerians to access treatment.
"The challenge before government, donor agencies and communities in 2020 is to accelerate the last mile push by ensuring every member of the community know about their HIV status and take proactive steps to remain healthy," Gambo concluded.
Also speaking, the deputy chief of mission for the United States embassy in Nigeria, Kathleen FitzGibbon, said that PEPFAR works closely with the Nigerian government toward achieving HIV epidemic control.
FitzGibbon said the collaboration aims to promote the long-term sustainability of their responses to find, link, and maintain patients on life-saving HIV treatment.
She noted that PEPFAR recognizes that successful and sustainable HIV/AIDS interventions must involve, be informed by, and tailored to those served.
She also said that PEPFAR’s commitment to reaching all populations and linking them to HIV services remains strong.
“For the first time in modern history, we have the opportunity to control the AIDS epidemic in Nigeria. U=U has proven to change the way we view HIV and HIV-positive individuals," FitzGibbon said.
"It empowers patients to not only get tested but to take control of their status, with the ultimate goal of maintaining an undetectable viral load. With the great partnership we share with the government of Nigeria, I’m sure we can achieve HIV epidemic control in Nigeria," she added.
According to the US DCM, more than 720 organizations have joined the U=U campaign from over 90 countries.
"The U.S. Government’s global commitment to fighting the AIDS epidemic stands at $80 billion dollars, combatting what has been described as the worst human scourge in history. In Nigeria alone, the U.S. Government has invested more than $5 billion in the national HIV/AIDS response," she added.
Meanwhile, Legit.ng previously reported that the lawmaker representing Lafia/Obi Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, had assured that health workers in Nigeria will begin a house-to-house HIV/AIDS screening in communities in the Federal Capital Territory.
Dahiru Sariki, who is also the chairman of the house committee on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria control said the screening will help ensure a many Nigerians find out their HIV status and push for early treatment and prevention.
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