The Director-General of National Agency for Control of Aids (NACA), Sani Aliyu, has appealed to state governments to start providing money for treatment of their residents living with HIV/AIDS.
He made the appeal against the backdrop of a plan by the Nigerian government to take ownership of the fight against the disease in the country following a decline in foreign funding.
About 95 per cent of the funds for the treatment of HIV patients in Nigeria is provided by foreign donors and the United States Government.
The state governments early this year promised to contribute one per cent of their monthly federal allocations to the fight against the disease, but this has not been carried out.
At a media parley organised by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) in Abuja on Monday, Mr Aliyu said though Nigeria has come a long way in the fight against the deadly disease, more still needs to be done.
The media event was to unveil Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka’s “Keep the Promise” to AIDS video campaign, which sets the tone for stakeholders to pick the gauntlet in response to the fight against the disease in Nigeria.
Mr Aliyu said though the treatment for HIV in Nigeria was started by the federal government about 20 years ago, 95 per cent out of the 1.1 million Nigerian patients are sponsored by the U.S. government and Global Fund.
“The government of Nigeria actually started putting people on treatment but not long after, partners, particularly the US government, started supporting.
“We now have about 1.1 million Nigerians on treatment for HIV and most of them are doing well, all thanks to the availability of treatment. But the treatment is being funded predominantly by the US government and Global Fund,” he said.
Mr Aliyu said though Nigeria is conducting a national HIV survey to have a relatively accurate statistics on the burden of the disease in the country, much would not be achieved in owning the fight against the disease if state governments do not fulfill the promise they made earlier this year to contribute one per cent of their monthly federal allocation to funding HIV/AIDs in their states.
“As far as government is concerned, access to HIV treatment is a right because that is what will enable those living with HIV to survive. Everybody has a right to life and right to life for people living with HIV includes access to medication,” he said.
Mr Aliyu explained that part of the efforts the government was taking to improve HIV treatment in the country include playing a strong role in bringing pharmaceutical companies to Nigeria to manufacture anti-retroviral drugs and HIV kits.
“As government, we are committed that those people who are placed on treatment continue to be on treatment, and most importantly, identifying those that are not on treatment and ensure they have access to drugs.
“We owe it to the present generation and we also owe it to the future generation. Our partners have done a lot of job in the past few years, it is about time we step forward and take responsibility to our citizens,” he added.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation Country Director, Echey Ijezie, in his welcome remark at the event, said the video campaign serves as a wake up call for policy managers of HIV in Nigeria to step up effort to ensure that access to HIV treatment and prevention services is enhanced and that Nigeria is ready to own and push the process.
Mr Ijezie, a medical doctor, said there is a need for the government to keep the promises made on AIDS in Nigeria.
Quoting the UNAIDS data, Mr Ijezie said 36 million people currently live with AIDS globally, while experts predicts that by 2030, 100 million people would have been infected with HIV virus.
He said despite this alarming number, the world has made great strides in HIV treatment as it is no longer a death sentence.
However, the challenge being faced is the dwindling of funds for AIDS research, treatment and prevention across the world.
“In Nigeria, we are happy about the impressive effort the government is making to bridge the gap, but importantly, government at the state level must join this effort and fund AIDS in their respective states. The same for the private sector,” he said.
Mr Ijezie explained that funding AIDs locally in Nigeria is achievable because the figure gotten from NACA signified that it only cost N47, 885 per unit cost to put one person living with HIV on treatment for a year.
“This puts the cost of putting 50 per cent of the estimated people living with HIV on treatment as N20 billion,” he said.
Modupe Oduwole, UNAIDS Strategic Intervention Advisor, in her remark, called on civil society organisations working on HIV/AIDS to improve on their advocacy, noting that their campaign against the disease has dwindled in recent times.
Ms Oduwole who represented UNAIDS Country Director, Erasmus Morah, said speakers at the event had given Nigerians, the policy makers, HIV care givers and the media a lot to think about on how the country can own the fight against the disease because it is not encouraging that 95 per cent of the fight is sponsored by foreigners.
Also speaking at the event, the Executive Secretary, Association of Civil Society on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (ACSAN), Nwakamma Ikenna, agreed with Ms Oduwole that advocacy on HIV in the country has dwindle due to funding.
He said the same problem affecting HIV funding and treatment is affecting the CSOs.
Mr Ikenna said most CSOs are not funded by indigenous organisations.
“Most funding is from international donor and you know how donors are. As funding for treatment is going down, same way advocacy activities will be going down. To sustain this, that is why we are asking for a sustainable funding for CSOs which will not be affected by government interference or by donor declining.
“That is why we want the media to come in. The campaign has gone beyond HIV is real to treatments. We intent to engage state governments to fund HIV in their budget as most of them claim to drop specific amount for HIV, yet it is never released,” he said.