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US gifts Nigeria extra $75 m to fight HIV/AIDS

The United States government says it has allocated an additional $75 million to the fight against HIV/AIDs in Nigeria through its President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

The US Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, said this in a statement on Tuesday.

Symington said the increased funding to make antiretrovirals available would enable more people living with HIV to lead healthy, productive lives until the day a cure for the virus is found.

“The United States remains committed to supporting Nigeria as it works to reduce and ultimately eliminate the scourge of HIV/AIDS among its people,” the envoy said.

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He, however, stressed that disbursement of the additional PEPFAR HIV funds is contingent upon the Nigerian federal and state governments reducing or eliminating financial barriers to PLHIV access to services, in particular, fees charged by healthcare facilities for non-essential services or those already provided by PEPFAR.

PEPFAR is the US government’s response to the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and helps save the lives of those suffering from the disease. It was launched by U.S. President George Bush in 2003.

The Country Director, US Public Health Service, Mahesh Swaminathan, had earlier told Premium Times that PEPFAR had spent about $4.7billion in the past 14 years to fight HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.

The Nigerian HIV/AIDs Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS) indicates that about 1.9 million Nigerians are currently living with the disease.

The survey shows that the percentage of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Nigeria, among the age group of 15-49 years, is 1.4 (1.9 percent among females and 0.9 percent among males).

The result also indicates that about 5.5 percent of the people living with HIV in Nigeria are in Akwa Ibom State, followed by Benue State with 5.3 percent prevalence rate.

It also states that while the North-west had the lowest prevalence rate at 0.6 percent, the South-south had the highest with 3.1 percent.

Symington also noted that PEPFAR is implementing an Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) surge programme in Rivers State to identify and provide treatment to approximately 180,000 PLHIV who have not previously received such.

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The statement indicated that Symington led a U.S. delegation on a courtesy visit to Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike, at Government House, Port-Harcourt to highlight the U.S. government’s $75 million budget increase for HIV control activities in Nigeria, with about $25 million allocated for the ART surge activities.

He applauded the governor for announcing his intent to eliminate user-fees for PLHIV.

“The U.S. delegation was in Rivers state to advocate for the elimination of user-fees for all people living with HIV, antenatal care charges for pregnant women living with the virus, and other barriers hindering PLHIV from accessing health services,” the statement read.

Symington emphasised how Governor Wike’s pronouncement serves as an example to other states and the federal government to eliminate such user fees

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