As Nigeria prepares to join the rest of the world to commemorate the World AIDS day on December 1, the country still accounts for more than half of new infections and deaths from AIDS-related illnesses globally.
The Director General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Gambo Aliyu, said this at a press conference to commemorate the World AIDS Day (WAD).
Mr Aliyu, on Thursday, also said “less than 40 per cent of adolescent and young people in Nigeria have comprehensive knowledge about HIV.”
“Over 60 per cent of adolescents and young people across the country do not have significant knowledge about HIV and adequate sexual education about the disease,” he said.
World AIDs Day
The WAD is celebrated on December 1, every year, to raise awareness of AIDS caused by HIV infection. The theme for 2019 WAD is “Communities makes the difference”.
Speaking on this year’s theme, Mr Aliyu said, “we recognise the essential role that communities have played and continue to play in the AIDS response at the international, national and local levels.
“Communities include networks of people living with or affected by HIV, women and young people, peer educators, counselors, community health workers, Civil Society Organisations (CSO), religious and traditional leaders, policy makers and activists.
“Communities are vital to facilitating an enabling environment that promotes equal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care services for Nigerians. They are also vital to safeguarding the rights of Nigerians living with HIV,” he said.
He noted that as Nigeria strives to achieve epidemic control, the efforts of communities are urgently needed to ensure “that HIV remains on the political agenda”.
In his remarks, the Senate Committee Chairman on Primary Healthcare, Chukwuka Utazi, said “this campaign is key to Nigeria’s effort to achieve the UNAIDS target.
“As we launch this campaign early next week, communities will be charged with the responsibility of supporting their fellow Nigerians living with HIV to achieve undetectable viral load for their own good and for the good of Nigeria,” he said.
‘No Cure for HIV’
Mr Aliyu also said that the cure for HIV/AIDS has not been found.
He encouraged Nigerians to ignore the claim by ‘one Jeremiah Abalaka’, who claims he has a cure for the disease.
“When Dr Jeremiah Abalaka treatment started few years ago, we handed over 30 HIV patients to him to treat. 29 of the patients died of complications from the treatment. Only one of the patients handed over to him survived. That’s enough point to show that his claims are untrue.”
The National Coordinator of the Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), Abdulkadir Ibrahim, also warned that there is no cure for HIV as widely speculated across many quarters.
He said an effective antiretroviral therapy can control the virus and help prevent onward transmission to other people.
He urged that while Nigeria is working towards achieving the ’90:90:90 treatment’ targets, “it is important to always prioritise key and vulnerable population who are disproportionately impacted by the HIV epidemic”.
“Our goal should be to situate human rights at the centre of intervention to achieve zero new infections, zero AIDS related deaths, and zero discrimination and leave no one behind as we work to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030,” Mr Ibrahim said.
He also called for a review of treatment policies and guidelines to align with WHO standards and global best practices.
Statistics in Nigeria
The Nigerian HIV/AIDs Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS) indicated that about 1.9 million Nigerians are currently living with HIV.
This places the prevalence rate in Nigeria at 1.4 per cent.
The report also shows that viral suppression among PLHIV aged 15 to 49 years old with access to treatment stands at 42.3 per cent.