The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, has lamented that less than half of Nigerians living with HIV/AIDS have access to anti-retroviral drugs.
The minister said this in Abuja at the occasion marking this year’s World AIDS Day.
Decrying the situation, Adewole said though the nation was thankful for the modest achievements and the ability to provide HIV services for those who visit public health facilities for HIV-related prevention, treatment and care services, only 860,000 persons are currently on ART, representing a paltry 23.5 per cent of adults; and a mere five per cent of HIV-positive children of the estimated 3.4 million Nigerians who require treatment.
Condemning the situation, Adewole said, “It remains a concern that despite several years of interventions, access to paediatric ART services continues to hover around the 28 per cent mark for six years running.”
The problem is not peculiar to Nigeria, though, as Adewole noted that of the 36.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS globally, only 46 per cent had access to anti-retroviral therapy as at the end of June 2016.
Quoting the UNAIDS prevention gap report, Adewole said that worldwide, estimated 1.9 million adults get infected with HIV every year for at least the past five years, of which Nigeria constitutes approximately 163,000 of newly infected in 2015.
He said that the dynamic nature of the epidemic in Nigeria has reflected a change in prevalence over time from 5.8 per cent in 2001 to 4.4 per cent in 2005; and 3.0 per cent in 2014.
Decrying the high HIV prevalence recorded among pregnant women and youths between 15-19 years of age based on the 2014 sentinel survey, the minister said the most high-risk populations have continued to serve as drivers of the HIV epidemic.
He also noted that HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men, and also among female sex workers are 22.9 per cent and 19.4 per cent respectively.
“It is equally worrying that Prevention of Mother-To-Child-Transmission services are available only to 30 per cent of the pregnant population annually,” he said; warning that the poor indicators are unacceptable “and require a re-think around our coordination strategies for the containment of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.”
He promised that just as the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS and the World Health Organisation have adopted strategies that essentially aim to fast track access to treatment and care, the health ministry will also collaborate with relevant partners to initiate and implement measures for fast-tracking HIV treatment and PMTCT in Nigeria.
Towards this end, he said, as from January 2017, government will begin to implement strategies for fast tracking HIV treatment and PMTCT in Nigeria.
“Our strategies will aim to achieve a massive increase in the uptake of HIV testing services, increase in number of persons enrolled for treatment and significant improvement in quality of services,” he promised.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has said that he was aware of the challenges surrounding the delivery of HIV services in the country, affirming his administration’s commitment to ensuring accountability and transparency in service delivery to Nigerians living with HIV/AIDS.
Buhari said, “In the face of dwindling financial resources available to government, it is vital that we improve on the efficiency and effectiveness of our programme, plug any wastage that could arise from mismanagement of resources and restore the confidence of our international partners.”