People living with HIV/AIDS decry cut in 2016 budget for treatment drugs
NEPWHAN plans to storm N’Assembly with bodies of patients
The controversies surrounding the state of the 2016 budget passed by the Senate have continued to vibrate in Abuja yesterday.
Indeed, if signals from the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN) is anything to go by, the Senate would soon bear the full brunt of its decision to reduce the amount planned for purchase of drugs for HIV patients.
The group is unhappy that the Senate reduced planned spending to provide drugs for the about 3.5 million HIV/AIDS persons living with the virus while it could conveniently approve over N3 billion to buy cars for themselves.
The group has, therefore, charged President Muhammadu Buhari not to sign the budget until the corrections are made.
The N14 billion budget proposed by the Executive for HIV/AIDS treatment in 2016 budget was pruned down to N800 million by the legislators.
In a statement issued in Abuja yesterday by its National Co-ordinator, Mr. Victor Olaore Omoshehin, NEPWHAN accused the legislators of toying with the lives of Nigerian people, especially the young ones living with HIV/AIDS.
“When you cut down the cost that can give them access to life-saving therapy, it is as if you are unplugging the support oxygen, telling them to die if they want to die. That is what they have just done with the budget.
“The President should not assent to the bill because the people’s concern have not been addressed. President Muhammadu Buhari should not sign this budget that the National Assembly has made provision of N3.6 billion to buy exotic cars while they just allocate N1.5 billion to care for people living with HIV.
“We cannot continue to depend on partners. We are Nigerians and not Americans. We pay our taxes to the federal and state government of Nigeria. So, Nigerian government should take responsibility of the people living with HIV in the country”, the statement said.
On what the group would do to ensure compliance, Omoshehin said: “We are going to storm the National Assembly, we will demonstrate because with this budget, people living with HIV/AIDS will no longer have access to treatment, care and support services, and a lot of people will die. And all we are going to do, we can definitely go to National Hospitals or any hospital in Abuja and get the bodies of people who are effected with HIV and have died and then take these bodies to the National Assembly if that is what they want.”
He said letters had gone out to all concerned parties, including the Budget Appropriation Committee of the National Assembly, warning that if they don’t get any response from them, the group would have no choice than to join the Nigeria Labour Congress to push through their demands.
Omoshehin also raised the fear of increase in new cases of the virus in the country, saying that if the country does not increase its budget for domestic funding, then the plan to end HIV/AIDS in the country will be a mirage.