As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to commemorate the World AIDS Day, theFederal Government has said plans are underway for the commencement of local production of antiretroviral medicines and other relevant commodities for the treatment of HIV infections.
Dr. Sani Aliyu, the Director-General of National Agency for Control of AIDS (NACA), stated this on Thursday at an event held at the Presidential Villa Abuja in commemoration of this year’s World AIDS Day themed: “Know your status”.
According to him, the local production of high quality and affordable antiretroviral drugs represents the most effective means of ensuring sustainable access to essential medicines.
He said: “the agency has commenced plans with relevant authorities to develop a comprehensive framework that will leverage on existing government’s policies to catalyse production of HIV medicines and commodities in country.” Aliyu stressed that improving engagement with the private sector forms part of NACA’s larger efforts to enhance local ownership and sustainability of the country’s HIV response.
The DG informed that the agency has been working on strengthening its engagement with the Private Sector in Nigeria through the Nigeria Business Coalition Against AIDS (NIBUCAA) in a bid to increase domestic funding for the HIV response agenda. He further said an HIV Trust Fund, which will soon be launched, will provide the platform for more concrete contributions from the private sector.
“It is our hope that resources that come through this window will help to close the gap in access to antiretroviral therapy for people living with HIV,” said Aliyu. On the ongoing National AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS), the DG said “this survey will provide reliable data on HIV incidence, viral suppression among people living with HIV who are on treatment, and the prevalence of hepatitis B and C.
“The results of this survey will improve our understanding of the Nigerian HIV epidemic and provide more accurate and reliable data for planning and decision making. By the end of this week, we will be on the last leg of the survey with only 8 states left to go. I dare say, the results would mark the beginning of a new phase in our HIV response.”
Speaking also, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said the reaffirmed government’s commitment towards increasing funding for HIV response and ensuring universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, and care services.
He said: “Government has for the first time ensured that the funds required to keep all those persons living with HIV on our treatment programme in Taraba and Abia States is fully accommodated in the 2019 budget.”
He also said that government have committed to support an additional 50,000 persons commencing HIV treatment every year in the budgets. The Vice President added that in line with government’s commitment to support people living with HIV to ‘live life positively’, it will facilitate the integration of vulnerable members of the HIV community into the poverty alleviation and social intervention programmes. Emphasising the role of HIV testing services towards achieving the 2030 target for AIDS free nation, the VP said “The role of HIV testing services and supporting people living with HIV to live life positively cannot be over-emphasised.
The theme; Know your status, clearly speaks to the importance we place on HIV testing. “We are approaching a new dawn in our national HIV response, as the country gets its HIV members right, as we commit to owing and financing the response, we also need to sustain this momentum and adopt new approaches that ensure services are accessible to everyone.”