Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, has said people living with HIV/AIDS would henceforth receive free treatment in the state.
Rivers is ranked third among the states with the highest prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, according to the Nigerian HIV/AIDs Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS) released in March this year.
Akwa Ibom State has the highest prevalence rates, followed by Benue.
Mr Wike announced the new position of the Rivers government on HIV/AIDS treatment, Wednesday, when a delegation from the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention under the auspices of the Institute of Human Virology of Nigeria visited the governor in Port Harcourt.
“We will stop all fees collected as user-fees for persons under the HIV/AIDS treatment programme,” a statement from the Government House, Port Harcourt, quoted the governor to have said in response to an appeal from the delegation.
“This is our contribution to the partnership with the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We will take over the payment of the HIV/AIDS user-fees for the public health facilities in the state.”
Mr Wike said the deputy governor of the state, as a medical doctor, would be in charge of “the new regime of HIV/AIDS treatment in the state”.
“We are committed to working with the United States Government to ensure we tackle this disease,” the governor also reportedly said.
“The Rivers State Government will take all necessary measures to assist the centre in this current push across the state,” he added.
The head of the U.S delegation, Tedd Ellerbrock, reportedly said 210, 000 persons were currently infected with HIV/AIDS in the state.
Out of this number, only 40, 000 patients were on anti-retroviral treatment, Mr Ellerbrock said.
Mr Ellerbrock appealed to the Rivers government to take over the payment of user-fees for persons living with HIV/AIDS who want to receive anti-retroviral treatment.
“The United States Government is funding the Institute of Human Virology of Nigeria in this effort. The U.S government will be deeply involved in all the 23 local government areas.
“We will deeply appreciate if you will help us with the user-fees.
“We have found that if there are user-fees, people are discouraged from coming forward to seek treatment. We are providing the anti-retroviral drugs and the U.S government is paying for the programme,” he said.