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Why more Nigerians must have access to HIV preventive drugs

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A cross section of participants at the training workshop

A saying that health is wealth is not only an adage but a reality especially when it comes to business and economy. This is hinged on the fact that only a healthy people can patronize or subscribe to the services rendered by few wealthy individuals of any country.

Overtime, it has been recorded that Human Immunodeficiency virus and acquired Immunodeficiency syndrome, HIV/AIDS, primarily affect more of people of working age which obviously contributes higher percentage of the workforce of any organizations. This group is also assumed to be sexually active people who have the potentials of spreading virus.

Statistics from United Nations for AIDS, UNAIDS, in 2016, reveals that Nigeria had 220 000 (150 000 – 310 000) new HIV infections and 160 000 (110 000 – 230 000) AIDS-related deaths. It also said that there were 3 200 000 (2 300 000 – 4 300 000) people living with HIV in 2016.

The record also revealed that the key populations most affected by HIV in Nigeria are: sex workers, with an HIV prevalence of 14.4 percent; gay men and other men who have sex with men, with an HIV prevalence of 23 percent.

These groups, however, could belong to the workforce of any organization which goes to say that if HIV is not nipped in the bud through the use of  Pre-exposure prophylaxis, Pr-EP, the younger generation would keep infecting each other and businesses would roundly be affected thereby leading to crippled economy.

However, experts and some non-governmental organizations, NGOs, last week, raised a voice, stating that issue of positive people infecting negative ones could be averted if the rich people in the society can intensify their corporate social responsibility by investing in the new preventive drugs, Pr-EP,  against HIV spread. This, they said will help make the drugs more available and accessible in the country, especially for the key population that are susceptible to the virus.

Speaking at a two-day media training on Biomedical HIV prevention, a program organized by AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, AVAC, in collaboration with Center for the Right to Health, CRH, and New HIV Vaccine and Microbicide Advocacy Society, NHVMAS, a human right activist from AVAC, Mr. William Rashidi, said Pr-EP is not widespread in Nigeria and not readily available.

He said there are only few places in Lagos and Abuja where one can access Pr-Ep in the whole Nigeria.

“In as much as we want those who are positive to be placed on treatment to suppress their viral load, we want to work to ensure that those who are negative remain negative. So the priority cannot just be on treatment alone but on prevention.

He explained that the people that are at substantial risk of contracting HIV who are still negative are people that need PrEP especially the key population such as commercial sex workers, gay men and people that inject drugs.

A program officer at  New HIV Vaccine and Microbicide Advocacy Society, NHVMAS,  Mrs Florita Durueke, explained Pr-exposure prophylaxis as a preventive HIV medicine through the use of  antiretroviral medication to reduce the risk of infection in people who are HIV negative.

They all lamented that the drug is not very available for people and therefore called on private business owners to invest in the area of prevention.

Earlier in a separate interview with the Head of Department, Clinical Science Division in the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research, NIMR, Mrs Agatha David told Africa Health Times (AHT), that vaccine is better than cure because it prevents the infection. She also said the vaccine is not readily available in the country.

 

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