By Talatu Maiwada
Abuja – Dr Effiong Eno, Deputy Director, Head Policy and Advocacy, National Agency for the control of AIDS (NACA), says the Federal Government is working to take ownership of HIV response in the country.
Eno said this at an HIV Reporting Project Orientation for journalists, a workshop organised by the AIDS Health Care Foundation (AHF), an NGO on Friday in Abuja.
He said the government of President Muhammadu Buhari was very proactive and committed in ensuring that the country took leadership of the response in achieving an AIDS free country.
“The president made a policy statement at the United Nations General Assembly two weeks ago that his government was committed in putting 50,000 more people on treatment every year.
“In 2018, the National Executive Council also approved that 0.5 to one per cent of the federation account should be consolidated for HIV response in the country.
“We are working judiciously to ensure it becomes implemented at the state level, while at the federal level, the Federal Government has taken over responsibility for HIV treatment in Taraba and Abia states.
“This indeed is a huge investment and progress from what it used to be,’’ Eno said.
He explained that the government was still working with donor communities such as the United States government through the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Response (PEPFAR), Global Fund, while seeking support from World Bank.
Eno in his presentation on the overview of National HIV and AIDS Policy 2009, said the policy was a guidance document that sets the environment for HIV and AIDS national response.
He said the policy was aimed at halting and reversing the HIV epidemic in Nigeria, and to provide a frame work for advancing the national multi-sectoral response to achieve an effective control.
Eno said the first case of HIV in Nigeria was in 1986, adding that the first policy was developed in 1997 to limit the spread of the virus.
He said that in 2001, a National Policy was enacted.
“Today, there is stability in the response environment, at a time we had 5.8 per cent prevalence rate but with the latest 2018 Nigeria AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS), the actual prevalence is 1.8 per cent.
“The Most at Risk Population (MARS), and other sub populations such as men having sex with men, people who inject drugs, female sex workers, trans-genders have begun to emerge hence the need for policy review.
“The policy, however, has to create an enabling environment to accommodate everyone, because we have subscribed to the universal policy of `Leaving No One Behind’,’’ Eno added.
Dr Godwin Emmanuel, a Public Health Specialist, said lots of advancement had been made in HIV, especially in testing, saying individuals could know their status themselves through using oral fluid test kit in a more confidential way.
Emmanuel said the oral fluid test kit had been in developed countries for more than 15 years but came into Nigeria in 2018 with the passage of self-testing policy by the Federal Ministry of Health.
He said the self-testing kit was a screening test but effective as the blood based test, saying a positive user need go to a hospital for further confirmation and commencement of treatment.
Jumai Danuk, Senior Programme Officer, Centre for Transparency and Advocacy, an NGO, said mental health issues in HIV and AIDS had often been neglected with more attention focused on treatment.
Danuk said persons getting new HIV diagnosis and those living with the condition often experience shock which could lead to anxiety and depression as well as difficulty to cope with the new status.
She acknowledged the need for a refocus from providing treatment but ensuring holistic approach to the management of HIV where individuals are better counselled with mental health programmes for young people.
Mr Steve Aborisade, Advocacy and Marketing Manager, AHF Nigeria said it was important to collaborate with the media in the HIV and AIDS intervention.
“The media needs to see this as their primary assignment. A new policy on HIV is being reviewed, dialogues have started and its important to conceptualise issues properly for communities most affected.
“The media is a vantage institution that can play a vital role in setting agenda around HIV and AIDS, especially in areas of domestic resource mobilisation, interpreting the policy and educating Nigerians,’’ Aborisade said.
Tobayas Dapang, a journalist with the Daily News Paper and a participant said the training had equipped him with more knowledge on how to report issues of HIV and AIDS.
Dapang noted that new challenges were emerging and confronting persons living with the condition, hence the need for a new focus and methodology in the reportage of HIV issues in the country.