By Jessica Onyegbula
The United States Government, says it will continue to support Nigeria in its quest to end the HIV pandemic in the country.
The U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, gave the assurance at the Workshop on Data Repository, as a Resource for Achieving HIV-Epidemic Control, on Thursday, in Abuja.
Leonard said that approximately 1.2 million people living with HIV, received support to improve quality of life, including Tuberculosis and HIV care services, and about 1.3 million orphans and vulnerable children received care and support services in Nigeria.
“I am delighted to join you today to celebrate World AIDS Day 2020. Every year we gather to celebrate people living with HIV/AIDS, remember those who have passed on due to the disease, and thank those who continue to work tirelessly to bring this epidemic under control.
”HIV/AIDS continues to be a leading cause of death, with over 690,000 people dying from AIDS-related illnesses in 2019.
”Today, over 38 million people are living with HIV worldwide. The U.S. government is fighting this disease through treatment and prevention initiatives and expanding access to HIV services for people worldwide.
”This World AIDS Day, we reaffirm our dedication to the fight to end HIV,” she said.
Leonard also said that in spite of threat of COVID-19, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) helped diagnose and provide treatment to 6,000 HIV-infected Nigerians in 2020.
“This was done while maintaining the integrity and quality of services, and keeping the healthcare providers safe.
”Now, PEPFAR is supporting lifesaving treatment to over a million patients and partnering with the government to achieve epidemic control,” she said.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, who declared the workshop open, said that the workshop was a timely opportunity to critically examine available data in the country.
Ehanire also acknowledged all the supports of partners.
“There is no doubt that 2020 will be judged by history to be an important year in global public health.
“Despite the threats that COVID-19 posed to our programmes and targets, it is a paradox, in that it also presented us important opportunity for learning and for change.
”I am certain that most of this learning will remain with us even in the post COVID -19 era,” Ehanire said.
The Director General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Dr Gambo Aliyu, said the National Data Repository would go a long way in identifying persons with HIV and placing them on treatment.
Similarly, Dr Murphy Akpu of the U.S PEPFAR, says the agency is proud of the investments made so far in Nigeria.
“PEPFAR has invested more than $6 billion in the national HIV/AIDS response in Nigeria alone. In Nigeria in 2020, more than 8.2 million people have received HIV counseling and testing services.
”Similarly, more than 1.2 million pregnant women received HIV testing and counseling toward prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the Network of Persons Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), Mr Abdulahi Ibrahim, said the issue of accurate data posed some challenges.
He assured the partners that NEPWHAN was totally committed to the success of the project.
”The Data Repository is a Repository of identified patients’ data collated from across the country.
”It provides for patients data to be collected at facilities and entered directly into Electronic Medical Record system,” he said. (NAN)