Nigeria is likely to record a zero incidence of Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome by 2030 as the prevalence rate of the disease has been declining in the last three years
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Mar. 30, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
THE effort by the federal government to tackle the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, HIV/AIDS, pandemic over the years is yielding result. In the past five years, the prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in the country is on the decline. A survey conducted independently by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS, health systems strengthening, integrated biological and behavioural sentinel in collaboration with the federal ministry of health, revealed a 54 percent reduction in the estimated incidence of HIV in Nigeria between 2003 and 2013. The rate dropped from 46 percent in 2003 to 21 percent in 2013.
UNAIDS stated that new HIV infections have been decreasing since 2003 when it stood at 348,564. In 2013, the rate of new infections dropped to 220,394. Also, HIV prevalence among pregnant women aged between 15-25 years dropped by 33.3 percent from six percent in 2001 to 4.10 percent in 2010. The UNAIDS report noted that this year started with the great news of the signing into law the Anti-Stigma Bill by President Goodluck Jonathan.
The global-anti-HIV body described the development as a clear sign of Nigeria’s commitment to stopping stigmatisation and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS. The legislation makes provisions for preventing HIV-related discrimination and creating unhindered access to health care and other services for infected people. It also provides for protection of the human rights and dignity of people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.
It should be recalled that between 2005 and 2013, national policies and actions had led to the decline in new cases of HIV infections by 35 percent, a situation that is in tandem with other sub-Saharan countries registering declines in new infections such as Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa. The UNAIDS lends credence to the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, NACA, report in February 2015 that the HIV/AIDS prevalence in the country has reduced from 5.1 percent to 3.4 percent.
John Idoko, director general, NACA, at a four-day free medical treatment, organised by NACA-Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme in Essien Udim and Ika local government areas of Akwa Ibom State, said the programme targeted 10,000 persons at each of the points.
Idoko, who attributed the decrease in the rate of the HIV/AIDS infection in the country to extensive awareness created about the virus by Nigerians, stated that the HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Bill which President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law in 2014, gave hope to those living with the disease that they would not be stigmatised when other people are aware of their status. He revealed that the HIV/AIDS was no longer a life threatening disease since the people living with the disease could still live their normal lives for a long period.
“Though we have incorporated other programmes towards improving the overall health of the people living with chronic conditions including cancers, diabetes, hepatitis and HIV/AIDS as well as combating the stigma of HIV, the programme’s main focus is on HIV/AIDS: We want people to have knowledge of this disease. We have asked people in Ukana and Ika to come for this HIV test freely. After seeking their consent, we educate them so that they can have good knowledge of the HIV/AIDS. We also let people know why they must not discriminate against those who have tested positive to the disease. Those who are positive are parts of us and we should embrace them. HIV/AIDS is no longer a life threatening disease. It has preventive measures; if you are HIV positive we have drugs that will give you a long life with good diet and other things,” he said.
Idoko said that getting tested for HIV remains the best step in the fight against the infection, noting that “Nigeria has realised exponential growth in the number of HIV counselling and testing sites from 1,000 in 2009 to more than 7,000 sites by end of 2013. “The sites are allowing more and more Nigerians to know their status, while those who test positive to the virus seek treatment and therefore live dignified and productive life.”
He said that in 2014 alone, more than seven million Nigerians underwent HIV screening and counselling. He disclosed that people living with HIV who are on anti-retroviral therapy increased from 132,438 in 2007 to 659,397 in 2013. “At some point in 2009, the number of new HIV infections was 306,862, while 302,297 were on ART. By 2013, new infections dropped to 220,394 – far less than 639,397 who were on ART. The number of prevention of mother to child transmission sites in Nigeria increased from 230 in 2006 to 1,410 in 2012 and 5,622 in 2013. The number of pregnant women who were counselled, tested and received results increased from 300,100 in 2006 to 1,181,296 in 2012, rising sharply to 1,706,524 in 2013; while the number of HIV-positive pregnant women on ART increased from 12,993 in 2006 to 57,871 in 2013,” Idoko said.
He noted that through the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme and other programmes initiated to strengthen the health sector, projects that are critical to achieving the universal access to anti-retroviral drugs and the elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV were launched in various communities. “The new National Operational Plan for the Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV in Nigeria 2015-2016 will further help the country to take a more focused approach towards the elimination of mother to child transmission and keep mothers alive by 2020. The decline in the estimated incidence of HIV in Nigeria is a welcome development. Ultimately, Nigeria will be able to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, given the commitment of the government to improving the health of Nigerians and getting to zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero discrimination,” he said.