To meet President Muhammadu Buhari’s pledge on treating more people living with Human Immuno-Deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) yearly, the Federal Government would need to raise its funding with N6billion from N1.5billion to N7.5billion.
Buhari made a commitment during the United Nations (UN) event on ending AIDS at UN headquarters in New York in September last year to maintain the 60,000 people living with HIV on treatment and put an additional 50,000 on treatment, using government’s finances.
Figures from the Joint United Nations programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) and National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) released yesterday at the launch of the Nigeria AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS) in Abuja, showed that out of more than one million Nigerians on HIV treatment, the Federal Government was only responsible for about five per cent compared to South Africa’s 80 per cent.
The UNAIDS and NACA estimated that about 600 Nigerians were infected with HIV, while about 400 Nigerians die from the infection daily just as two-thirds of all new HIV infections in West and Central Africa occurred in Nigeria in 2016.
The figures suggest that Nigeria also had the largest number of HIV-infected babies globally as one in every four babies born with HIV in the world in 2016 was a Nigerian.
UNAIDS Country Director for Nigeria, Dr. Erasmus Morah, said President Buhari’s decision marked the first major step to ensure that Nigeria owned and sustained its national HIV response going forward.
“We note with great pleasure that this commitment now has a specific budget line under the Federal Ministry of Health and NACA.
“Nigeria needs to take responsibility for treating its own citizens living with HIV. Right now, out of more than one million Nigerians being treated for HIV, government is only responsible for about five per cent.
“In South Africa, where I served as Country Director until last year, this figure stands at around 80 per cent,” he said.
The UNAIDS Country Director added: “Only one in three Nigerians in need is receiving treatment.
By treating Nigerians living with HIV, you are also treating the Nigerian economy. HIV treatment is not expenditure; it is an investment in life expectancy, workplace productivity and Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Director General of NACA, Sani Aliyu, said there was no doubt Nigeria has a huge HIV challenge and the second largest HIV burden globally with about 3.2 million people living with the virus.
Aliyu said the HIV/AIDS survey would help to determine the number and location of people living with HIV in Nigeria with a better degree of precision in order to prioritize resources to where they were most needed.
The survey would also track the coverage and impact of current HIV services and efforts in the country as well as estimate the level of viral suppression and drug resistance among persons taking HIV treatments.