The National Agency for the Control of AIDS, NACA, has said only about one in three persons who need treatment for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria are getting the life-saving treatment.
The agency has therefore called on state governments to invest in HIV/AIDs programme to enable more people with the virus get treatment.
Over one million people are receiving treatment for the disease in Nigeria, although about three million need the treatment.
According to health officials, it is only in about nine states in the country that more than half of their people living with HIV are on treatment.
The Director-General of NACA, Sani Aliyu, at a joint press conference in Abuja to commemorate the World AIDS Day, on Wednesday urged state governments to invest in the fight against the disease.
The World AIDS Day (WAD) is celebrated December 1 every year. The press briefing was held to set the stage for the celebration.
Mr. Aliyu expressed frustration over poor funding of the health sector in Nigeria.
“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,” the NACA boss said.
He said WAD was set aside “to remember those living with the virus and those at continued risk of HIV; but most importantly those loved ones that have died from HIV.
“As this year’s theme says, ‘The right to have, making it happen’, we are going to make it happen.”
According to Mr. Aliyu, the major issue facing HIV in Nigeria is lack of ownership, as the one million Nigerians on treatment are being funded by external donors.
“And this one million Nigerians on treatment need to continue to be on treatment. They are not going to go away. Therefore, we know as government, it is our responsibility to look for resources to start planning adequately.
“But if the state governments can invest more in the disease, then a larger number of people will be placed on treatment,” he said.
He said 37 million people are living with HIV/AIDS across the world, with 21 million of them placed on treatment.
Mr. Aliyu said Nigeria will not allow itself to be left behind in the global effort to tame the epidemic.
He said but for the interventions of NACA and other partners, about 1.5 million Nigerians would have died from the disease, while the number of those with the virus would have soared to eight million.
Stressing government’s committed to enhancing ownership and sustainability of the HIV/AIDS response, Mr. Aliyu said every Nigerian has a right to good health and it is the responsibility of government to ensure that this basic right is available to all Nigerians.
“The government is planning adequately to take over the one million people on treatment. This is not going to be an easy task, but it is not a task we will shy away from.
“I have said this in the past, and I will say it again, giving HIV treatment to people living with HIV is not a charity, it is not an act of kindness, it is a responsibility and it is the right of those people living with HIV,” he said.
Speaking at the conference, the National Coordinator of the Network for People Living with HIV in Nigeria, Victor Omoshehin, urged the government to take ownership of the HIV and AIDS response.
“Putting money into the national response is an investment in humanity. Our continuous access to medication and our right to healthcare is a fundamental right. Government should make it happen,” he said.