Mr. Dennis Otabo, the Coordinator, Civil Society for HIV and AIDS in Nigeria (CISHAN), Rivers chapter, says inadequate domestic funding for the HIV epidemic in Nigeria is a major challenge currently stalling the HIV response progress in the country.
He made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Port Harcourt as part of activities to mark the World AIDS Day, annually celebrated on Dec. 1 to raise awareness about the scourge as it continued to kill people and many others getting infected.
Otabo, who is also the Coordinator for all Non-Governmental Organisations working within the Health Sector in Rivers, said the inadequate domestic funding had been a major challenge stalling the HIV response progress in the country.
He said “the HIV/AIDS programme in Nigeria is majorly donor driven, with very little contributions from both the federal and state governments.
“Nigeria isn’t where it is meant to be in terms of the fight against HIV/AIDS, compared to other African and developed countries.”
The CISHAN chairman lamented that the programme was majorly funded by international donors who provide free medications “and tell us how to use such medications and how such medications should be dispensed.”
He, therefore, urged government to take full responsibility of tackling the scourge through increased political will and ownership in terms of funding the HIV/AIDS programme.
He said “as a country, we are far behind where we ought to be, the foreigners still pay for it, give it to us and even fund how the drugs are dispensed and how it should be decentralised to hospitals, it is a very pathetic issue.
“Everything is funded by donor partners; government only pays salary of the health workers who do not only take care of HIV/AIDS patients and this isn’t funding of a programme.”
He pointed out that people living with the virus in Nigeria and taking the Anti-Retroviral (ARV) medications were still taking third generational drugs, taken once daily.
The coordinator lamented that since the programme was foreign donor driven, it would be catastrophic if such funding was eventually withdrawn.
He recalled that in the past, foreign partners provided free condoms under a programme called “condom drive”, where free condoms were distributed to hotels to encourage its use.
Otabo added that since the foreign donors stopped the provision of free condoms, government had yet to embark on the distribution, which may lead to reversal of the gains recorded in the past.
“The consequence is that since there is no free condoms in hotels, some people might indulge in unprotected intercourse which will lead to spread of the condition,” he noted.
He, therefore, urged the Federal Government and state governments to pay their share of the counterpart funding, and take full ownership of the HIV/AIDS response.
Dr. Naaziga Francis, the Project Manager, Rivers State Agency for the Control of AIDS (RIVSACA), also said that domestic funding was a key challenge to the HIV/AIDS response in the country.
He said that funding had stalled Nigeria from being where it ought to be in the fight against the HIV scourge.
He added that “one of the key challenges to the HIV response is that in Nigeria and in Rivers, funding is grossly donor driven, especially by the United States government through the Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Government still has a lot to do in terms of HIV funding.” (NAN)