The Nigerian government has hosted 16 Nigerians recently honoured by the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) for their contributions to the control of the HIV epidemic in Nigeria.
PEPFAR on June 16 honoured the Nigerians as part of the commemoration of its 15th anniversary. The initiative has been at the centre of the fight against HIV in Nigeria since its inception and has been contributing about $400 million yearly to the cause.
Speaking at an event to celebrate the Nigerians, the Director-General of the National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA), Sani Aliyu, said the award to them should encourage all to work harder to stop the spread of the virus in Nigeria.
The agency hosted the event on Monday in Abuja.
“This award reflects teamwork. It reflects what we really should be doing coming to HIV response. It is also an opportunity for us to commit to work even harder to make sure that we stop having new HIV infections and also stop people from dying from HIV,” Mr Aliyu said.
The official said PEPFAR has contributed tremendously towards HIV response in Nigeria.
He said that the U.S. organisation contributes about $400 million every year to fight HIV in Nigeria.
“PEPFAR has been supporting the country for about 15 years, it has invested a tremendous amount of money in the HIV response.
“Eighty per cent of the people on treatment are courtesy of PEPFAR,” he said.
He urged the awardees to see their recognition as a challenge to do more towards HIV response.
“On behalf government, we say that this award is a wake-up call for us to do more and move to the next stage. We will make sure that our programmes reflect the amount of resources going into it and we are able to show value for money,” he said.
At an event earlier held to honour the awardees, the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, said the awardees, drawn from People Living with HIV, civil society, government, and private citizens, are all persons who have made sacrifices and committed themselves to serve those affected by HIV and AIDS.
“In the face of the epidemic, they have provided outstanding leadership, fought against the stigma and discrimination that impedes HIV service uptake, offered innovations, and made great sacrifices for the greater good,” he said.
“PEPFAR is the U.S. government’s response to the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and represents the largest commitment in history by any nation to address a single disease.
“Through the leadership and generosity of the American government and people, together with the work of many partners, PEPFAR has saved millions of lives, averted millions of infections, and changed the course of the AIDS epidemic.
“The U.S. Government’s global commitment to fighting the AIDS epidemic stands at $80 billion dollars, combatting what has been described as the worst human scourge in history.
“In Nigeria alone, the U.S. Government has invested more than $5 billion in the national HIV/AIDS response,” he said.
Tobore Ovuorie, an independent journalist and researcher, said the award was a call to do more than she had been doing.
“Following this award, I have settled and re-strategised,” she said.
Ms Ovuore spoke on the state of the fight against HIV in Nigeria.
“For counterpart funding, Nigeria still has a lot to do. When we look at where we are coming from and where we are right now in terms of people accessing treatment, I think we are doing well. However, there is always room for more to be done. We all need to come together and work towards the goal,” she said.
Another awardee, Alban Anonyuo, an activist and initiator of Sex Workers Association, said: “This award is coming at a time I am planning to leave the active participation of HIV intervention. It is like an icing on my cake, having passed through this journey for the past 19 years.
“My activities strictly was advocating for the rights of the key population which includes men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs. I advocate strongly for them, their right and make sure I pull through locally and internationally,” he said.