Rep seeks sustained funding of HIV/AIDS control
THE House of Representatives in a bid to ensure the wellbeing of the citizenry, has urged the international community to sustain the funding of the procurement of retroviral drugs and other activities aimed at ridding the country of the HIV/AIDS.
The appeal came from the Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, after the Country Director, United Nations Aids (UNAIDS) programme, Mr Bilali Camara, while on a courtesy visit to the House of Representatives at the weekend dropped the hint that UNAIDS is considering withdrawing from funding the campaign owing to the fact that Nigeria had not been living up to its financial obligation.
Gbajabiamila who expressed concern over the devastating effect of the infectious disease urged UNAIDS to exercise restraint on its planned action in view of the fact that it is in the best interest of the international community if the citizenry in Nigeria remain healthy.
Acknowledging that corruption was responsible for the country’s inability to meet its financial obligations on the campaign, he assured that the House of Representatives would ensure provision of funds required to sustain the campaign against the spread of the infectious disease.
Highlighting several interventions of the House in fight against HIV/AIDS, which include passage of Anti-Discrimination Against People Living with HIV/AIDS Bill and setting up of a special House committee on HIV/AIDS, the House Leader assured UNAIDS of the commitment of the 8th House of Representatives towards HIV-free society.
He also advised UNAIDS to set up HIV/AIDS screening and care centre in the National Assembly where lawmakers, legislative aides and hundreds of Nigerians come to work on daily basis.
According to him: “Let me say very well done in terms of the attention you have given to this major epidemic that is ravaging our communities in and out of Africa.
The figures you gave in your opening remarks were quite staggering, about four million Nigerians infected with HIV, about 60,000 of them being children and several have died. When we look at these things from that perspective we begin to understand the enormity of the problem that we have. “It has become obviously a human rights issue and we are happy to note that there is a vision that by 2020 we would have eradicated this problem.
Whatever we can do as a parliament towards the realization of that we definitely will do because as they say a healthy nation is a wealthy nation. “In terms of the critical area of funding which you mentioned, I believed from what you said $700 million was spent in 2014 and perhaps in the past couple of years too and that there has been a reduction by the international community ostensibly because they feel the home country is not doing enough.
I say ostensibly because when you cut off funding for such a major problem there would always be conspiracy theories on reason why you cut off funding because the world is a global village now.”
The UNAIDS country adviser urged Nigerian lawmakers to provide enabling environment for local production of retroviral drugs because a country with over 3.4 million HIV patients should not rely on foreign drugs.
Accompanied by Ms Mianco Ramarossi, he also urged lawmakers to use the instrumentality of legislation to ensure corruption doesn’t cripple fight against HIV/AIDS and care for victims.
According to him: “This is an opportunity for us to share with you few important points that we believe are important for your country as it seek to get the HIV/AIDS epidemic under control.
Today we have 3.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, 58 percent of them are women. That is certainly an important issue which we have to really deal with.
It is an issue which is important because those are the most productive ages who are suffering of this epidemic. Important because the children who are our future, 60 thousand of them are affected affected in 2014.
Important issue because we know that 170 thousand of our brothers and sisters having children died of HIV/AIDS last year. “The bottom line is as House of Representatives, as leaders of this country it is really important to meet with you and tell you how the situation is.
Despite this difficult situation I will tell you that in the past few years we were able to do the right things. Right things in terms of how many people have been tested, right things in terms of how many pregnant women who were living with HIV/AIDS have received treatment to prevent transmission of the virus to the baby and some headway in terms of how many people were put on treatment in Nigeria.
And if you look at the situation in the last three years we really had very good results which have actually put Nigeria among the countries in western and Southern Africa who are not in the world which have been able to stop the spread and reverse the trend of HIV/AIDS.
It is very important to keep that in mind, because despite that success story we really need to do more because we the United Nations who are really your creature to really make sure by 2013 we will end the AIDS epidemic.
And it is possible because the science exists, because the knowledge exist, because we know when we act together at all levels we will really be able to make that important distance.
What is certainly important for us to let you know is that despite those success stories, despite that situation we are really facing today a very important change in the response to the epidemic. “That change comes because as you may know, if you look at the expenditure on AIDS in 2014 we have spent 700million USD and if you look at that amount only 25 percent came from the domestic resources and the rest came from outside.
And I will be honest with you, to say that if you look at the previous years the trend has not changed. Meaning simply that year after year many resources are coming from outside and little is coming from inside.
That is not the way we have to deal with this issue, and if you may remember African Union has called all the heads of states to really sit down together to really look at the situation now of AIDS in Africa. “You may remember two years ago we had Abuja summit to discuss about the elimination of AIDS and the clear message is the glial solidarity has to continue but to the shared responsibility is important.
We have our responsibility, we as Africans, we as leaders of Africa especially you who have certainly the opportunity to lead us to really say this global solidarity has to be translated into putting resources into an issue which is as important as HIV/AIDS. “That is why we are here today to really let you know that if you look at the global picture, for example in 2013 and 2014 the international community has reduced its investment in aids in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, domestic resources are also not enough to really respond to the epidemic. What we are facing today is that if you look at the global funds and the U.S. Investments in AIDS nigeria, there is a clear message they have for all of us.
Nigeria we have done enough, Nigeria we have done too long, Nigeria we want you to do something, Nigeria we want you to do the shared responsibility a reality. “Today, I am calling on you and leaders of this House, as leaders of this country to really help us to make sure investments which is coming from outside is marched by investment from inside.
That is really necessary. If we have to tackle this issue, if we have to resolve it, if we really have to end AIDS epidemic in Nigeria there is no other way. You have to really take care of those issues.
Those issues meaning really the amount of resources which are necessary to really get this issue resolved. “And I am pleased by the message which we have heard from our leader, President Mohammadu Buhari who told the world that Nigeria can stand up alone, Nigeria can face its problems alone.
We need your help for some issues which are very critical. “One, is corruption. Help us to fight against corruption and we will be strong enough to really stand alone.
We don’t need aids. We don’t really need aids from outside. We can do it for ourselves. Just help us as much as possible to make sure that the loopholes are closed and the Nigerian money will be used for the Nigerian purposes.
And that message is certainly resonating throughout the United Nations as one of the positive image, as one of the positive message which we have heard from our new leader.
And really we’ll support him as much as possible and as much as we can really make sure that we will fight together to make sure that Nigeria will stand alone, Nigeria will fight alone because Nigeria is strong. “My Honourable leaders, honestly speaking when Nigeria wins Africa will win.
And that is the bottom line and that is the most important. You have a leadership role not only in Nigeria, but you have a leadership in Africa.
And Africa is looking at you and Africa is happy because of the change which you have brought in, and Africa want really to transform this change into something which will benefit Africa and one of the key issues which we can really handle together is really to end the AIDs epidemic. “I would like again to thank you very much for this warm welcome on behalf of my Executive Director, Mitchell Sidibe, I want to thank you on behalf of the whole UN and to let you know that we are here and will want to work with you, we want to support you and we want your guidance and you can tell us where we can make it a difference where we can get this issue under control.”