An estimated 2.8 million Nigerians may be on their way to early grave if not provided with required treatment, Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, NEPWHAN, Pharm. Abdul-Rahman Momodu has warned.
Momodu gave the warning recently in Abuja at the inauguration of new executive members of the group.
He informed that there was an estimated figure of above 3.5 million people living with the disease in the country.
“Out of these, only about 700,000 have access to antiretroviral treatment. In absolute terms, it means that 2.8 million Nigerians have no access to treatment. It also means in effect that about 2.8 million Nigerians may be on their way to an untimely death if the government does not act fast to arrest the situation.
“To worsen the already devastating situation, donor partners are reducing their funding support for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria for reasons which may not be unconnected with the belief that Nigeria, being a rich country, is capable of taking care of its citizens.
“This situation has further increased the vulnerability of people living with the infection. The sad news, also, is that people living with HIV/AIDS now pay for services that used to be free and those that are unable to pay are left with no option than to go home and die. Let me say at this point that it is a big risk for the country to leave over 3.5 million Nigerians living with HIV/AIDS at the mercy of donor partners.”
It would be recalled that Nigeria is second most burdened nation with the ailment, trailing South Africa. Millions of people have been confirmed dead of the virus in Nigeria.
Momodu emphasized that government in the country must take full responsibility for the prevention and treatment of the disease in the country. This, he noted, would promote the nation’s determination to eliminate the disease and by implication save lives that are being lost to it.
He challenged the new leaders of the association to eschew self-aggrandizement and deliver on their mandates.
Outgone Coordinator of the group, Edward Ogenyi, said he had been part of leadership of NEPWHAN since 2000. According to him, he had placed the association on high pedestal for his successor to build on. “As regards service to our fatherland, I think I have paid my dues,” he said.
In his address, new Coordinator of NEPWHAN, Victor Olaore Omoshehin, challenged government at all levels in the country to work towards having the next generation of people in the country without the HIV virus. He called for capacity building for persons currently living with the disease and guaranteeing their dignity in the society.
“Our continued existence will depend on universal access to improved treatment, prevention, care and support interventions, not just for the few at the top but for the poor masses, because an essential element of dignity is being able to live a decent life…
“As the United States and other donors continue to provide enormous financial resources in the fight against HIV/AIDS, we urge the government of Nigeria to take greater ownership of health programmes with significant budget allocation to HIV, tuberculosis and malaria as 300,000 Nigerians die yearly from complications arising from AIDS. 1.5 million children are said to be orphaned by AIDS annually,” Omoshehin stressed.