By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari has unveiled the 2018 Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS), noting with delight that less Nigerians are living with the HIV virus when compared to the 2014 survey.
The president, who spoke at the unveiling of NAIIS on Thursday in Abuja, however said: “We cannot celebrate yet, as almost a million Nigerians living with HIV are currently not on treatment’’.
NAIIS, inaugurated in June 2018 by the President, is a national household-based survey that assesses the prevalence of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and related health indicators.
The NAIIS data collection was conducted from July through December 2018.
According to Buhari, the official HIV prevalence for persons aged 15-49 years in Nigeria is now 1.4 per cent as against 3.2 per cent in 2014; while an estimated 1.9 million (as against 3 million in 2014) Nigerians are now living with HIV with about one million persons on treatment.
The president observed that the availability of accurate and reliable HIV data for the country was crucial for planning effective health intervention to arrest the HIV epidemic and ultimately rid the country of this health threat.
He noted that the NAIIS was in line with the federal government’s determination to ensure sustainable solutions to the nation’s development challenges.
He also observed that the survey and its results had come at the right time as the government commences full implementation of the National Health Act that would ensure that every
Nigerian has access to comprehensive health services.
According to him, the survey is designed to provide the data needed to plan adequately and consolidate on the progress towards the elimination of HIV in Nigeria.
“We are already a step ahead in this regard as the federal government has ensured that the HIV treatment programme in Taraba and Abia is properly funded this year and accommodation made to resource future expansions in the coming years,’’ he said.
He noted that the survey had provided government with the crucial information needed to enable the national HIV response to move forward and plan for a more sustainable and accountable programme based on credible scientific data.
Buhari described as a welcome development the move by the Nigerian private sector to establish a National HIV Trust Fund in the coming months to support the nation’s goal of ensuring that all Nigerians have access to high quality HIV treatment and prevention services.
“I am delighted that these more accurate figures indicate that fewer Nigerians are affected by HIV.
“However, we cannot celebrate yet, as almost a million Nigerians living with HIV are currently not on treatment.
“Now that we have data that will help us target for impact, I urge all of us not to relent in this fight, but to increase the momentum in a concerted effort to end the epidemic ahead of 2030.
“I also welcome the move by the Nigerian private sector to establish a National HIV Trust Fund in the coming months to support our goal of ensuring that all Nigerians have access to high quality HIV treatment and prevention services,’’ he said.
Buhari stressed the need for a coordinated and funded national response so as to achieve epidemic control and end AIDs in Nigeria.
He maintained that the federal government was determined to progressively add 50,000 Nigerians on treatment of the virus every year using government resources.
“As we mark this important day in the nation’s HIV response, I will like to reiterate the commitment I made at the UN General Assembly in 2017 to progressively add 50,000 Nigerians on treatment every year using government resources.”
He directed NACA and the federal ministry of health to undertake detailed consultations and consensus building with key sectorial ministries, the legislature, governors of high prevalence states, the development partners and civil society organisations to chart a new strategic path, building on the results of this survey.
“To guide this process, we are issuing today a `Revised National HIV/AIDS Strategic Framework’ document,’’ he said.
Buhari expressed optimism that the end of AIDS “as a public health threat by 2030 is truly in sight for our country.
“Let us therefore work collectively and push for the last mile’’.
The Director-General, NACA, Dr Sani Aliyu, revealed that the survey was the largest single specific survey in the world and was achieved in record time of nine months.
He revealed that Nigeria had dropped from number two to number four on the ranking of countries with highest HIV prevalence in the world.
According to him, Nigeria is behind South Africa, Mozambique and India.
Aliyu thanked the president, development partners and other stakeholders for their support to ensure the successful conduct of the survey.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, also noted that the survey was actualised as a result of partnership with key stakeholders.
In a good will message, the Executive Director of UNAIDs, Mr Michael Sidibea, commended the political will demonstrated by Nigeria to carry out the survey.