‘Why HIV funding should be statutory provision’
• Finally, new NACA DG resumes as National HIV prevention conference takes off in Abuja
• U.S. pledges to provide high quality, life-extending care that is free from stigma, discrimination
Stakeholders at the ongoing National HIV Prevention Conference in Abuja have called for the inclusion of HIV funding as a statutory provision in the 2017 budget and others in the future.
Nigeria bears a significant portion of the global Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) burden but government spending for treatment and care had been largely limited, depending largely on donor funds, which are now drying up.
Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on AIDS, TB and Malaria, Hon. David Mbugadu, who spoke at the opening ceremony of the conference, stressed the need for Nigeria to graduate from donor funding.
He harped on the need for government to increase its expenditure for HIV/AIDS care and treatment.
Also speaking, National coordinator of the Association of Women Living With HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (ASWHAN), Assumpta Reginald, called for greater attention to the removal of barriers to the prevention of mother t child prevention of HIV.
Meanwhile, the new Director-General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Dr. Sani Aliyu, who was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in July, resumed officially Tuesday.
Speaking at his first official appearance in Abuja, he told participants at the National HIV prevention Conference 2016 that NACA under his leadership would work to fast-track progress towards ending AIDS by 2030.
“It goes without saying that HIV has had a significant impact on all of us. The African continent is home to about 70 per cent of the 36.7 million people living with HIV in the world. With about three million people living HIV in our country, Nigeria ranks second only to South Africa in terms of disease burden globally,” he noted.
He described prevention as key to HIV control and remains an essential part of any Programme.
As part of efforts to reduce the burden of HIV/ AIDS on the most productive population, Nigerian youths converged in Abuja to brainstorm on innovative ways to end the epidemic, even against the backdrop of dwindling donour funding and global economic challenges.
The youth were drawn from the 36 states of the federation, under the auspices of a Youth Summit, organised by NACA, to mark the World AIDS Day 2016.
The summit challenged Nigerian youth to discover themselves and assume leadership roles, drawing from their natural talents, backed with skills and robust energy to provoke change in the social and economic spheres.
Various speakers, who were mostly youths from various spheres of life, expressed optimism that if the youth look outside the box, understand their influence and awesome power, they can cause a lot of change in the current social political and economic spheres of the country. This will empower them and lend them less vulnerable to factors that drive the pandemic.
HIV Specialist at United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Dr. Victoria Isiramen, said the global body was there ‘’to chat the future.” She added that donors are now shifting focus from HIV/AIDS to other areas, yet there exist great opportunities, if youths could position themselves to explore any aspect of the Sustainable development goals. She said though the Sustainable Goals did not make any specific provision for HIV/AIDS intervention, many of the targets have direct relevance to youths and could be seized. Citing what she called a “demographic dividend”, she defined the term as “a boost in economic growth that occur when a country’s working age population is larger than the population that is dependent and younger’’. She explained that this much is an asset that the country needs to leverage on to scale off from the limitations, but the youths are responsible to make it happen.
In her paper, “Overview of HIV response among Young People in Nigeria,” Director Programme Coordination, NACA, Dr. Akudo Ikpeazu, exposed the vulnerability of youths to HIV and AIDS, citing factors that drive the pandemic to include multiple and concurrent sexual partnership, intergenerational sex, sexual coercion among others.
The summit featured various presentations, feedback session as well as capacity building. It enabled youths and adolescents to air their views on their experiences on HIV/AIDS and way forward.
Meanwhile, the United States (U.S.) has pledged its government’s unwavering commitment to supporting Nigeria and partner countries to control HIV/AIDS and focus on ensuring that every dollar invested in the epidemics has the greatest impact for those in need.
Speaking at an event to mark the World AIDS Day 2016, titled: “Leadership. Commitment. Impact,” the U.S. Consul General, F. John Bray, urged all and sundry to come together as a global community with urgency, focus and transparency to achieve an AIDS-free generation where no one is left behind. The U.S. envoy stated that the government is also working to achieve its objective of providing high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination, adding that last week, the Nigerian government launched a simplified version of its HIV anti-discrimination act to strengthen the nation’s HIV response system, which is geared towards stopping HIV-related cases.
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