By Hassan Zaggi
For Nigeria to be able to control HIV epidemic in the next two to three years, it needs an investment of over 2.4 billion dollars.
The Director General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Dr. Gambo Aliyu, disclosed this while presenting HIV Quarterly Fact Sheet in Abuja.
He, however, revealed that Nigeria has so far invested over 6.2 billion dollars in HIV response since the past 10 years.
Dr. Aliyu however, lamented that over 5 billion dollars which is equivalent to 2.1 trillion naira from the 6.2 billion dollars comes from donors.
According to him: “In the last 10 years, over 6.2 billion dollars had been spent on national HIV response and the thing that is pinching is that if you look at it critically, over 5 billion dollars (2.1 trillion naira) of this 6.2 billion dollars comes from external source.
“It is money coming either from the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) programe or from the Global Fund.
“We are happy that we have this support now, but we are not unware of the fact that once we are able to control this epidemic, this support will no longer exist. The question is, where do we get this money to continue.
“But, before then, for us to control this epidemic and reach that level we are saying that we have to identify over 90 per cent of people that have this disease and put them under medication, we need 2.4 billion dollars.
“Which means in the next 2 or 3 years that we ought to control this epidemic, this is the investment that is required.”
While expressing the determination of the federal government to continue to provide medication for people living with the HIV, Dr. Aliyu, however, lamented that “to continue to provide medication for 1.5 million people, you need nothing less than 75 billion naira annually.”
According to him, identifying over 90 per cent of the people who have HIV and putting them on this live-saving drugs, will drastically reduce or eliminate the transmission of the disease from person to person.
“Because of the importance of these, one; controlling the epidemic, making sure that transmission has been cut up and death from HIV has been reduced drastically to the barest minimum. It is one thing to control it and it is another thing to continue to control it.
“For you to continue to control it, you must make drugs available to the 1.5 million people living with virus. By the time we control this epidemic, we will have in our treatment list about 1.5 million people.
“For you to make sure that HIV is thoroughly controlled and you are ending AIDs, you must keep 1.5m people on treatment for life. And this where the difficult thing come.
“This is not easy because to continue to provide medication for 1.5 million people you need nothing less than 75 billion naira annually.
“Our goal is to do two things; control the epidemic and put structures for sustainability.”
The NACA boss, therefore, called for the sustenance of the HIV infrastructure across the country, noting that, they were useful during the early days of COVID-19.
“As long as we look at HIV and the infrastructure it provides over the last 15 years, one of the benefits that has happened as a result of the existence of the infrastructure is the support that HIV infrastructure provides to COVID.
“At the time COVID came, HIV labs were deployed to conduct the testing because the two are virus and they have similar things. The machine use to test these two virus are the same. The only thing is the reagent that differs.
“What we did was during the day we test for HIV and in the night we test for COVID. Were these infrastructure not available at the time COVID came, Nigeria wouldn’t have the opportunity to hit the ground running and succeed in the number of test we were able to do at the beginning of this epidemic.
“So, this was to say that HIV infrastructure were found to be very useful when the COVID struck.
“We don’t know what may come in the future, but the existence of these infrastructure should be maintained and we should do whatever it takes to continue to build on these infrastructure because that is bringing our nation to where it should be and that will also enable us to combat diseases not only HIV.”