Nigeria making progress in HIV/AIDS response, says Federal government

According to the Federal Government, Nigeria is on track to eradicate HIV/AIDS by 2030 and has achieved significant strides in the fight against the illness.

Dr. Tunji Alausa, the Minister of State for Health, revealed this information on Thursday at a press conference to commemorate World AIDS Day in 2023.

“Let Communities Lead” is the commemoration theme for 2023.
Alausa also revealed a few national policy documents on HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, and Sexually Transmitted Infections. These aim to improve the current framework for action, lessen the diseases’ spread, and control their effects.

Information, education, and communication materials for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission demand creation and scale-up (2023) and National Guidelines for Viral Hepatitis Treatment and Care – 2023 are the two documents.

Others are Standard Operating Procedures for PMTCT scale-up, jingles in 10 languages for PMTCT scale-up – 2023, and IEC materials for HIV self-testing scale-up – 2022.

According to Alausa, the laudable progress in the response to the disease was made in the last two decades towards ending the epidemic by 2030.

“Nigeria with the current HIV treatment coverage above 90 per cent is well on course to meet this goal.

“Currently, Nigeria has 1.6 million People Living with HIV/AIDS on treatment out of 1.9 million.”

He added that communities contribute to the HIV/AIDS response in numerous ways as their leadership and advocacy ensure that the response remains relevant and grounded, keeping people at the centre and leaving no one behind.

“We cannot achieve lasting progress in our battle against HIV/AIDS without the active involvement of our communities.

“Our communities and community structures are not merely recipients of care; they are champions of change, the catalysts for progress, and the backbone of our collective resilience,“ he said.

He also said that tremendous efforts that have been made by successive governments and other stakeholders to control the HIV epidemic by averting new transmission and improving lives cannot be overemphasised.

Alausa said that in November 2020, Nigeria joined a multi-country learning network “the HIV Coverage, Quality, and Impact Network (CQUIN)” under the leadership of the National AIDS and STIs Control Program.

This was to learn and share knowledge to support the coordination and scale-up of Differentiated Service Delivery (DSD) for HIV in Nigeria.

He added that other means of progress have been through the scaling up of numerous interventions and services.

While giving an update on the state of HIV epidemics in Nigeria, the National Coordinator National AIDS, Viral Hepatitis and STIs Control Programme (NASCP), Dr Adebobola Bashorun, said there has been a steady decline in annual HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths.

He, however, said that out of the 1.9 million PLHIV, 270,000 had not been identified and that as of 2022, 159,923 estimated children aged zero to 14 years were living with HIV in Nigeria; making it one of the countries with the highest paediatric HIV burden globally.

“Also, 20,364 HIV-exposed infants (HEIs) had Early Infant Diagnosis (EID) samples collected within two months of delivery, which translates to only 21 per cent EID coverage and an MTCT rate of 14 per cent at six weeks and 23 per cent through breastfeeding.

“96,517estimated HIV positive pregnant women who needed PMTCT, only 34 per cent were enrolled on Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) in 2022.

“However, 50,676 children living with HIV (CLHIV) were on treatment in 2022 which represents 32  per cent of the estimated CLHIVs.”

Bashorun noted that despite the current efforts towards paediatric case finding and linkage to HIV treatment, many children remain undiagnosed and thus without access to life-saving ART.

He added that it was critical to identify these children and initiate ART as early as possible.

On his part, the Chairman, House Committee on AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Control (ATM), Hon. Amobi Ogah, said that it’s very important for Nigeria to recommit to reducing foreign support to at least 50 per cent.

“We are not unmindful that over 90 per cent of funding for HIV/AIDS activities through programs in our country comes from foreign partners.

“I therefore call on the Federal Government to look inwards in supporting domestic funding because it is high time we decide our fate and not be dependent on foreign aid which does not do us any good.”

He, however, assured that the legislature would work towards the increase of budgetary allocation to the fight against HIV/AIDS in the face of limited resources.

“We will also provide the legislative framework to protect the rights of people living with HIV and other forms of discrimination and stigmatisation”, he added.

The development of supportive environments for community leadership and the ongoing adoption of cutting-edge strategies for HIV prevention, treatment, and care, according to Dr. Chavan Laxmikant, the Universal Health Coverage Cluster Lead at the World Health Organization (WHO), are necessary to consolidate the progress that has been made.

“We call on the government of Nigeria and its partners to empower the communities to take up leadership by providing an enabling environment and addressing cross-cutting issues- punitive laws and policies, stigma and discrimination, gender inequality and violence that hinder the communities.”

World AIDS Day is observed on December 1st of each year to honor those who have lost their lives to the virus, to promote awareness about HIV/AIDS, and to support those who are living with the virus, according to the News Agency of Nigeria.