By Oluwafunke Ishola
The Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN) has called on stakeholders to collaborate to put an end to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in Nigeria before 2030 target.
Mr Patrick Akpan, the Coordinator of NEPWHAN in Lagos, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.
Akpan spoke with NAN on the challenges that HIV/AIDS had taken a back stage in 2020 due to emergence of COVID-19 pandemic.
He expressed the optimism that if everyone comes together, more progress could be achieved toward ending HIV/AIDS soonest before the 2030 deadline.
“It has become important for everybody to come together so that we can fight against HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, and the world at large.
“At NEPWHAN, we are working to ensure that our members take their anti-retroviral drugs regularly so that they don’t transmit the virus,” the Network coordinator said.
He said except everyone collaborates and unite to kick AIDS out of the various communities, the current targets geared toward ending the scourge, as a public health threat by 2030, might be an illusion.
According to him, COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the global HIV/AIDS programmes in the last few months, saying that achieving the 90:90:90 HIV target by 2020 is no longer not feasible.
“The 90-90-90 is a set of goals introduced by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in 2013.
“The goal is that by the end of 2020, 90 per cent of people who are HIV infected would be diagnosed.
“Ninety per cent of people who were diagnosed would be on anti-retroviral treatment, and 90 per cent of those who receive anti-retroviral would be virally suppressed.
“Viral suppression is when a person’s viral load or the amount of virus in an HIV-positive person’s blood is reduced to an undetectable level.”
Akpan said the Lagos State Government, through its HIV Consortium, ensured that people living with HIV/AIDS got three to six months medications before the lockdown.
According to him, this is to forestall the COVID-19 pandemic impact on viral load of people living with HIV/AIDS in Lagos.
“We know that severe disruption in HIV treatment could result in additional AIDS-related deaths.
“But, this proactive approach by the government ensured that we all have enough anti-retroviral medicines.
“The state government and the Nigerian Business Coalition Against AIDS (NIBUCAA) also extended palliatives to us to ensure that people living with HIV/AIDS do not abandon their HIV treatment due to lack of food,” he said.
Akpan said that strong collaboration would strengthen past achievements recorded in HIV/AIDS response, unify commitment and investment, which would fast track the attainment of 2030 target.