*says US spends $6b to support fight HIV/AIDS in Nigeria
By; BAYO AKAMO, Ibadan
United States Consul General in Nigeria, Claire Pierangelo on Wednesday hinted that the American Government is planning to increase the number of Nigerians receiving free HIV/AIDS treatment for life on the bill of the US government above the current 1.2million people .
The US Consul General dropped this hint at the launching of the Oyo State Antiretroviral Surge Response held at the Emeritus Professor Theophilus Ogunlesi Hall, Ibadan, initiatived by the APIN Public health Initiative in collaboration with the Oyo State Government and the US government to officially kick off an accelerated testing plan to identity people living with HIV and place them on treatment.
According to the US Consul General, the US government has since 2003 provided not less than $6billion support to Nigeria in fighting HIV/AIDS .
” Since 2003, the US government has provided up to $6billion worth of assistance to Nigeria to fight HIV/AIDS. Currently, 1.2million Nigerians are receiving free treatment for life and our goal is to increase that number as much as possible so that we can end the epidemic here in Nigeria and the cooperation between the US government, the Nigeria government and the Oyo state government is the key of doing that.”, she said
Pierangelo added that the US government is collaborating with the Oyo state government to scale up the number of those currently receiving HIV/AIDS treatment to end the epidemic in the state and the country at large.
” We are happy to be here in Oyo state for the launch of the ART Surge which is designed to partner with Oyo state government in finding and treating HIV positive patients in the state. It is a wonderful initiative with many aspects of cooperation, but the bottomline is that, we need to find and treat HIV patients, so we are very grateful for our friends here in Oyo state for the cooperation that we are getting”.
The Lead Prevention and Community Programme, APIN, Mrs Bola Thompson in her remarks noted that the campaign ” is aimed at scaling up testing activities in the state”.
She stressed that the government is committed to identifying the about 75,000 people living with HIV and ensure they are placed on treatment and ensure that “we continue to follow them up to ensure that they are viraly suppressed.”
Country Director, US Centre for Disease Control, Dr Mary Boyd while speaking said the US government is Nigeria and the US government has been partnering on putting people living with HIV on treatment for at least 18years”, adding, “this is another phase in our partnership, where we are now trying to find those remaining individuals who are infected and don’t have access to treatment.”
Oyo State governor , Engineer Seyi Makinde Governor Seyi Makinde represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Mrs Olubamiwo Adeosun declared that the HIV Treatment Surge Light Launch is expected to increase awareness of communities and health care providers on the need for women of reproductive age group, children, adolescents to get tested for HIV.
Governor Makinde maintained that the effort is aimed at increasing HIV case finding by testing across all 33LGAs in a strategic way and linking those positive to free treatment, adding that it is geared towards achieving HIV epidemic control in Oyo state by year 2030.
Chief Executive Officer, APIN Public Health Initiative, Dr Prosper Okonkwo in his remarks stated that the essence of the launch of ART Surge is to close the accelerate efforts to close the gaps of patients who are yet to be tested and place on treatment.
“The point is that we have been doing HIV work in Nigeria for over 20years and we have made considerable progress but we think we now know where we are, we know what the gaps are and we know what surge means like in basic English language which is to accelerate. So, we are accelerating so that the gaps of patients that are yet to be put on treatment, we can reduce.”
Dr Okonkwo said ” the war against the spread is gradually been won because looking at where we were when we started and where we are now, a lot has been done. And we think we are learning a lot and we want to use things that we have learnt to really speed up things and close the gap.”
“Until the last person is free, nobody is free. A lot has been done but we are just trying to close the gap of what is left. We are here to launch a surge up of our activities in tackling the spread. It took us 20years to get 24,000, we need to get 23,000 more and we don’t want to wait for another 20years, we want to do that in maybe two years. It is the activities that is surging, not the HIV.”