African countries have been urged to spend more to demonstrate their commitment to the goal of eradicating HIV/AIDS from the continent by 2030.
Sheila Tlou, UNAIDS Regional Director East and South Africa, made this call on Thursday, on the second day of an international conference on the fight against AIDS.
The conference was organised by Caritas Nigeria a catholic non-governmental organization, in collaboration with UNAIDS and PEPFAR at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja.
Ms. Tlou said African countries can no more be relying on international donor partners to combat the disease in the continent. She said political leaders, religious bodies and the private sector in the continent need to show more commitment and get involved by allocating more money to the fight against the disease.
“Political leaders need to show more commitment about the fight against the deadly disease and make it a self owned programme. If the government is intensively involved, why are we still depending on international partners in managing the epidemic in Africa?
“At the inception, south and east Africa were the most affected by the epidemic, but today the epidemic has spread all over Africa,” she said.
Ms. Tlou said some countries appeared not to bother about HIV/AIDS because the percentage of likely spread of infection among their populations is not high.
“But I tell you the truth, it is not so. The percentage does not tell the whole truth.
The infection percentage rate in Nigeria, which is just two percent and can be referred to as inconsequential, but two percent of 180 million people is about 3 million and that is a very alarming rate.
“This calls for alarm because that population is far higher than what is obtainable in Swaziland where they have the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world”.
She said the expectation is that after this conference, African countries and agencies would see the need for more focus and strategy on how to achieve the goal of eradicating the disease.
Another speaker at the event, Samuel Shanju, Programme Officer, Eumerical Pharmaeutical Network, a faith-based organisation in Kenya, tasked the governments to take first place in the treatment of people living with HIV/AIDS and also encourage private players to contribute to eradicating the disease from Africa.
He said children still have challenges accessing medicine at health facilities, a situation he said has created a burden between caregivers and the patients.
Mr. Shanju also noted that the complexity of the dosage of the medicine has also been affecting child treatment and that storage facilities for the drugs are also a huge challenge.
“We need to start working on a sustainable development that will make us be able to start producing these products locally and stop depending on foreign donors and financing. We have not done much, and it is time for us to start thinking of how to do more at a sustainable level”, he said
“It is very important to have private sector contribution in health financing as the contribution of this sector has decreased overtime and has been taken over by NGOs who are majorly foreign donors.
“Donor dependency is a security risk, especially if you are about 98 percent dependent on them, if they pull out suddenly, then that means crisis for the country and that is suicidal,” he warned.
The Catholic Archbishop for Abuja Diocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, had in his address at the opening ceremony said there is no reason why a child should die of HIV/AIDS and that nations should not rely on foreign donors.
Mr. Onaiyekan observed that a lot of people are yet to be covered for treatment and that , especially funding partners were beginning to lose interest in the championing of the cause of those with the disease.