Stakeholders advocate increased domestic funding to fight HIV/AIDS

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By Justina Auta

Stakeholders on the prevention of HIV/AIDS on Tuesday called for increased domestic funding to accelerate prevention and end HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.

They made the call at the opening ceremony of the 2024 Nigeria HIV prevention cconferencewith the theme “Accelerating HIV Prevention to end AIDS through Innovations and Community Engagement” organised by National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) in Abuja.

Amobi Ogah, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Control, stressed the need to reduce dependency on foreign aid and source for local funding to end HIV/AIDS in the country.

Ogah disclosed that Nigeria needed an estimated eight billion dollars annually to sustain the fight against HIV/AIDS.

He added that the national coverage of Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV is less than 50 per cent, leading to about 22,000 cases of MTCT of HIV every year in Nigeria.

He stressed the need to re-evaluate, rethink, and re-strategise HIV prevention intervention programmes.

He added that “for NACA to achieve her mandate, we must all ensure increase of domestic funding, strengthen HIV interventions, mobilise community members for gender equality, social norms and care services.

“We must also increase funding for PMTCT of HIV, support people living with the virus, campaign against stigmatisation and discrimination of persons living with HIV/AIDS.

“Also, we need to ensure leadership action for these and key population communities among other interventions.

“NACA will also need to scale up its treatment centres, which is about 100. I think we should increase it to at least 300 by the end of 2024 to stem the tide and sustain the fight to end HIV/AIDS as a public health threat.

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Dr Temitope Ilori, the Director-General of NACA, said that the theme of the conference underscores the importance of community involvement in shaping effective prevention strategies, while ensuring access to treatment for those living with HIV/AIDS.

She said “we must double our efforts to prevent MTCT and strive for an AIDS-free generation by 2030, leveraging the advancements in health technology at our disposal.

“Prevention lies at the core of our public health interventions. Therefore, this conference serves as a platform to explore innovative approaches to empower communities, particularly those at higher risk, with the knowledge and tools to protect themselves from HIV infection.

“Stigma and discrimination remain significant barriers to achieving our goals by 2030.

“We must educate and sensitise people about the harmful effects of stigma and discrimination against individuals living with HIV/AIDS.

“Our strategies must be inclusive, person-centred, and sensitive to the needs of adolescents, young people, key populations, and people living with the virus.

“We must also focus on community-based interventions while promoting local ownership and sustainability of our response efforts.”

Dr Leo Zekeng, the UNAIDS Country Director, said: “everyone must be involved. We need to find out at the state level how much is earmarked toward prevention, we need the political commitment.

“Investment in condoms has reduced and data remains a challenge. So, this is the time to invest in primary prevention, and chart a new course on reducing new infections in Nigeria.”

Also, Dr Tunji Alausa, Minister of State for Health and Social Welfare, stressed the need to accelerate prevention of new infections, especially among vulnerable population and youths.

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“My attention will be focused on how we keep our data right, ensuring that we have solid foundation for improved ownership and sustainability of the HIV response in Nigeria.

“I will be elated when the director-general of NACA talks to me on how we can facilitate an AIDS-free generation, where no child will be born HIV positive in Nigeria.” (NAN)

Edited by Ifeyinwa Okonkwo/Hadiza Mohammed-Aliyu

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