By Hassan Zaggi
The Director General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Dr. Gambo Aliyu, has disclosed that his agency has concluded plans to empower people living with HIV/AIDS, beginning with women, in all nooks and crannies of Nigeria.
The empowerment programme is under its new initiative christened Prevent, Protect and Empower (PPE).
He disclosed this at a media briefing in Abuja, Tuesday.
He, therefore, called on the private sector to support the initiative to enable it succeed in order to improve the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.
While lamenting that COVID-19 has had adverse impact on people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, the NACA Director General disclosed that the PPE initiative was born out of the desire to assist people living with HIV/AIDS to get their medication easily.
“The project was basically to Prevent Protect and Empower (PPE) people living with HIV/AIDS who find it difficult to go to facility to collect their medication, find it difficult to earn a living and we are focusing on women simply because when it comes in terms of equality, when it comes to business empowerment, women are at a disadvantage.
“Because of that, we will want to make sure that we take care of women living with HIV/AIDs before we focus our attention to men.
“In the next couple of months, you will see us in the communities, as early as this week, flagging up this project in various communities to empower women living with HIV/AIDS who are indigents to teach them how to do small businesses at community levels and give them seed money to initiate these businesses .
“This, NACA is determined to continue until the end of the year and in 2021 to make sure that we look at the most disadvantaged people living with HIV/AIDS in communities across the country and empower them,” he said.
Dr. Alyu, therefore, encouraged Nigerians to get tested for HIV, insisting that: “For it is only when people agree to get tested for HIV that our dream of getting to 90-90-90 and 95-95-95 will be realized.
“Without testing, there is no way we can identify individuals that are yet to be identified but are out there in the communities.”
He applauded President Muhammadu Buhari for funding his agency, “the kind of funding that we have not seen in recent years and for keeping to his pledge of putting 100,000 people living with HIV on treatment with domestic resources.”
Speaking, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN), Prof. Patrick Dakum, revealed that his Institute will maintain about 300,000 persons living with HIV/AIDs on therapy in spite of the direction of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He, further, disclosed that: “We will also be able to provide testing for a minimum of one million people going forward at least within the context of our mandate.”
He noted that there was 14 per cent prevalence of COVID-19 among the IHVN workers and unfortunately, the Institute lost two of its staff to Covid.
In spite of that, he stressed “we will continue to work.”
He vowed continued support to NACA within the mandate of the IHVN.
Earlier, the Representative of the United Nations (UN), Dr. Fiona Braka, commended the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government for endorsing the People’’ Vaccine initiative and for the official public statement in favour of the campaign.
She, however, noted that: “In Nigeria, the progress towards the 90-90-90 targets shows that for the first 90, 73% of people living with HIV know their status. This is a great achievement for the country, but we need to do more. Identifying persons who are positive is urgent and becomes more challenging as we approach the last mile. The HIV response will demonstrate true success when we start with identifying. It is only by achieving the expected target of persons knowing their status that we can truly be successful with treatment and viral suppression in the population.