Poor funding, lack of access affecting fight against HIV/AIDS in South-South- NACA

The National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) says poor funding and lack of access to HIV services were negatively affecting the fight against HIV/AIDS in the South-South Zone of the country.

Mr Nnamso Thomas, the Acting South-South Zonal Coordinator of NACA, said this on Thursday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Calabar.

NAN reports that the World AIDS Day is marked annually on Dec. 1 while the global theme for 2022 is “Equalise to End it.”

NAN also reports that the national theme is “Equal Access to Treatment and Prevention Services.”

Thomas said although the region had made significant progress by implementing several programmes, these gains were being affected by the challenges of access to prevention and treatment services as well as funding.

The coordinator said the Nigerian HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS) 2018 for South-South revealed an estimated 557,980 persons living with HIV.

He added that the survey revealed a 3.1 per cent prevalence rate, adding that this was higher than the national prevalence of 1.3 per cent.

Thomas said: “We have a population that do not have access to HIV treatment and prevention services.

” This is why both globally and nationally, stakeholders feel that it is important for structural barriers to be removed.

“This year, there will be a lot of discussions on how communities would have to remove barriers for people regardless of their population groups or location to have equal access to HIV services.

” There is also the issue of poor funding as over 90 per cent of HIV response in Nigeria is donor-driven.

” How do we sustain our successes when these donors who are gradually pulling out their fund eventually leave?”

The coordinator said while it was important to talk about treatment, people needed to know that prevention remained critical.

He lamented that more than 92,000 persons were infected in Nigeria in 2022 while 1.5 million people were infected globally in 2021.

Dr Ifeanyi Udenkwo, Team Lead of the Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF) in Cross River, said the state used to be one of the hard hit states.

He, however, said the prevalence of the disease had dropped from six per cent to two per cent due to sustained efforts to tackle the pandemic.

Udenkwo said the data, which was from NAIIS, had shown that the state was winning the fight against the pandemic.

He expressed the hope that the prevalence of the disease would be reduced further to one per cent or less in the next NAIIS survey.

“As a service provider, we have ensured that our services remain top quality and free, one of which is the distribution of palliatives twice to people living with the virus  in 2022.

“While we have brought testing closer to the people, we have also ensured constant condom distribution in Cross River.

” We hope to surpass our target of 1,000,000 condoms by the end of 2022.

“We have also collaborated with the University of Calabar Alumni Association to organise a youth-friendly programme.

” We also trained 50 peer educators who will continue to educate and advocate for testing on campuses,” he said.

Udenkwo added that December would be busy  for the foundation because of its collaboration with the Cross River Government in sensitising people during the Calabar Carnival.

He said the campaign would involve extensive testing for HIV and condom distribution to curb the spread of the virus. (NAN)

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