Over 1m Nigerian PLWAs on treatment, NACA DG
The number of persons receiving treatment for HIV/AIDS has risen to one 1,150,000 from about 750,000 over a year ago, the Director-General, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NASCA), Dr. Sani Aliyu has said.
Dr. Sani gave the new figure on Wednesday in Abuja at a joint press conference to kick-start activities lined up to commemorate this year’s World AIDS Day.
According to the NACA DG, devoting funds for the treatment of persons living with HIV/AIDS by the Federal Government is not a charity but a right as HIV patients are entitled to live happily and make needed contributions to national growth and development. He stressed that the need top avoid stigmatizing or discriminating against them.
Also he told newsmen that commemorating the World AIDS Day is “not a jamboree but a time to remember people living with HIV and those who have die.”
The agency’ boss decried that the fact that 95 percent of people on treatment for HIV in the country are being funded by external donors. “As a government, we know that it is our responsibility to look for fund to place remaining people on treatment,” he said.
He went on: “At the moment, we have about three million Nigerians requiring HIV treatment. At about N50,000 per patient, per year, that translates to about N150 billion. That is more than 60 percent of the 2017 federal Ministry of Health budget.
“Therefore the approach to handling the HIV funding is not only to try and increase the budgetary allocation to HIV, but overall to try and increase the overall federal health budget. Because federal health budget cannot devote 60 percent of its budget towards a single disease condition.”
Aliyu said despite successes being made by the current leadership of the agency, NACA and other stakeholders are worried because prevention-of-maternal-to-child transmission is not part of basic health care provision Act. He said NACA would push to make the Act accommodate the PMTCT.
According to him, Nigeria has the largest number of babies being born with HIV in the world. He said government would work to make sure no baby is born with HIV in the nearest future.
He said the agency had worked out a modality on how state governments in the country could support HIV response funding with between 0.5 percent and one percent of their monthly allocation from the Federal Government.
He disclosed that the private sector contributes only two percent of HIV response in Nigeria.
“For government to put everyone on treatment, the cost should be brought down. the cost is about 50,000 per annum for now,” he noted.
In his remark, UNIADS Country Director, Erasmus Morah, said Nigeria is ranked second among nations with HIV prevalence, coming behind South Africa.
He wondered that South Africa with seven million people living with HIV/AIDS, had been able to place 4.2 million people on treatment, but Nigeria’s response is less.
Morah also expressed delight that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari had pledged to place 50,000 HIV positive persons on treatment yearly..
According to him, 37 million people living with HIV globally, while 21 million are on treatment. “Until Nigeria takes responsibility for response, HIV will not end,” he said.
He said persons not on treatment are predisposed to dying of cancer, diabetes and hypertension.
Morah expressed optimism that the Buhari’s administration is taking bold steps to reduce the burden of the disease. “We are very excited. It is a beautiful time to be a UNAIDS Country Director in Nigeria,” he said.
The theme for this year’s commemoration is “The right to have, making it happen, we are going to make it happen.”