The Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire has assured People Living with HIV/ AIDS (PLWHA) and all who test positive to HIV of getting automatic treatment in any Primary Care Health centers irrespective of their age, gender or condition (pregnancy).
Dr. Ehanire gave this assurance at a meeting of stakeholders of the health sector organised by Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria (IHVN) in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Health on the Kick- Off ceremony on the Dissemination of the National Guidelines for Prevention, Treatment and Care held on Thursday in Abuja.
Dr. Ehanire said, “From this today onward, we are duty bound to offer antiretroviral drugs as prevention to all persons who are at a high risk of contracting HIV infection”. “From today forward all persons on treatment are entitled to at least, one viral load test per year”.
Going through the history of HIV/AIDS scourge in Nigeria, the Minister of Health for State revealed that up till 2001 after the virus was discovered in 1996, the morbidity and mortality rate was about 60 and 40 percent respectively in many parts of the country.
He nonetheless said that thankfully, government at that time was deeply committed to the African Union (AU) and sought to lead by example as well as the fact that President Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and Global Funds (GF) led to massive investment in HIV/AIDS control activities and a rapid increase in access to life saving treatment and care.
Disagreeing with the claims that when compared to the achievements of this cause in other countries, our national response to HIV connotes failure and incompetence if 860,000 in 1000 comprehensive HIV treatment centers are on ART. Ehanire said nothing around us suggests that our HIV Programme is a disaster.
Ehanire said he rejects this claim because in reality, when we take records of very eminent and highly positioned accomplished professionals, CEOs and country directors that have been in the business for decades, it is difficult to accept that Nigerian Programme is a failure.
He however accepts that things can be done better even though the health sector have achieved tremendous success in its battle against HIV/AIDS, adding that he is motivated by the change in public perception from ‘fear, panic, hysteria and horror of 2000, to the ‘calm, ‘please be careful, HIV is still out there’ attitude that is the prevailing public sentiments of HIV/AIDS today.
Chairman Nigerian National PMTCT Task Team; University of Jos; Clinical Researcher/Investigator; Clinician (Obstetrician and Gynecologist), Professor Atiene Sagay also spoke on this saying, “The coverage for the dissemination of guidelines for the prevention, treatment and cure which used to be a problem in the past has risen from 13% to 30%”, adding that this is a plus on health sector.
Moving forward, Dr. Ehanire commended the adoption of the key recommendations of the WHO 2016 guidelines, saying, “It is for us, triumph over prevarication and procrastination”. Also, that it is the mark of maturity- the coming of age”.
He said the 2016 guidelines is by today’s standard,a cutting edge and it’s recommendations are clear and unapologetically pro-patient.
Still on the way forward, the Executive Director, Plan Health Advocacy and Development foundation, Mr. Obatunde Oladapo said that in order to solve a particular problem, it is better to work with the people who are having the identified problem.
He reiterated this with the maximum: “the taste of the pudding is acknowledged by the eater”.
The Honourable minister thereafter, expressed his delight over the agenda of the meeting which indicates sessions that will address the key sections and specific recommendation of the guidelines.
He thus, urged all stakeholders, especially PLHIVs to jointly participate in the struggle against HIV in Nigeria. Saying that all should apply themselves and their offices to faithfully implementing these guidelines across the country.
Ehanire went on to thanking all persons and organisations that have supported the development of the guidelines which includes UN group of agencies, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, USG/PEPFAR, civil society organisations and frontline health workers.
He ended on the note that the FMoH is committed to advocating for increased government investment in HIV/AIDS.