World AIDS Day 2019
By Jude Chukwuemeka
Steve Aborisade - AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF)
Dr Frederick Unuigbohai - General Practitioner
Rotimi Sankore - Journalist, Policy and Development Expert
Nigeria moved from 2nd to the 4th position among countries battling the HIV epidemic, a survey report stated.
Prior to the survey, Nigeria had the second highest HIV/AIDS prevalence with 3.2 million persons having the disease. The country is reported to have made good progress in HIV treatment and prevention services in recent years.
In March 2019, the Nigerian HIV/AIDs Indicator and Impact Survey revealed that "about one per cent of Nigerians (1.9 million people) are currently living with HIV/AIDs. In 2018, 1.7 million people were newly infected with HIV – this number must reduce by three-fold to meet the 2020 target of 500 000.”
Effort in raising awareness about HIV/Aids around the globe include: grassroots activism, mobilization of global resources and political commitment. The most glaring gap is seen in prevention, according to World Health Organization.
Research has revealed that when the World AIDS Day was first launched over three decades ago (in 1988), “a person living with HIV had a very short life expectancy.” But now, with the help of antiretroviral treatment, "people living with HIV can survive and thrive into old age."
Of the 37.9 million people living with HIV at the end of 2018, WHO reports that 79% received testing, 62% received treatment, and 53% had achieved suppression of the HIV virus with reduced risk of infecting others. Communities are a unique force behind the success of the HIV response.
Yesterday, 1st December, was the 31st #WorldAIDsDay. The day was launched in 1988 for: the remembrance of those lost to HIV, to increase awareness and understanding of HIV, and to galvanise the response to the epidemic. No wonder, “Communities make the difference" is the theme for 2019.
Sadly, according WHO, Global fast-track targets for HIV for 2020 are unlikely to be met unless more support becomes available. To meet the 2020 target, suggest ways that could be exploited in reducing the number of people newly infected with HIV.
Dr Frederick Unuigbohai who joins hosts Wemimo Adewuni and Sheriff Quadry in the studio explains why more people are having the HIV/AIDS virus though people have been achieving suppression. He describes suppression as a word for “individuals who are on treatment. After a while, individuals may go through the monitoring tests. For some of those who maintain the monitoring tests and take their drugs as they should, the virus may not show up in the test. These individuals have suppressed the disease. But it doesn’t mean the person is free of the disease because the virus is very low.”
Apart from speaking on the reasons why Nigerians should discourage stigmatization, Dr. Dr Frederick also said that drugs are available for people who are registered.
Rotimi Sankore speaks on the statistics. He says that he’s been involved in HIV/AIDS issues from 1998 even before the development goals arrived. He is involved in writing and editing a book on the epidemic. Since last year, he says “the good news is that the numbers are lower now than we thought.
“But the federal and state government should make sure that sustained investment has to be made regarding this issue so these figures don’t go up again. They could do that in four or five ways. The first is test and treat. Now, 95 percent of the citizens need to be tested. There are key demographics that also must be addressed.”
On his part, Steve Aborisade among others things, said his organization is treating about one million people infected with HIV worldwide. There are about 23,000 people under his organization’s care in Nigeria. He spoke about some 15 young people he met in Benue who have known HIV all their lives because they got it in their mother’s womb. Some of them now have viral suppression, while some of them are not. Funding, he says, is dwindling at the present time.
Other challenges include many Nigerians who don’t come forward for treatment. Less than 30 percent of Nigeria have ever tested for HIV. To get Nigerians to test, money must be made available. Rotimi said that a lot of counselling is also needed.
Morning Crossfire with Wemimo Adewuni (@wemimospot) & Sheriff Quadry (@SheriffQuadry), alongside Rotimi Sankore (@RotimiSankore)