The United Nations AIDS (UNAIDS) programme in Nigeria said it would partner the Federal Government in domestically sourcing funds and drugs for the control of HIV/AIDS in the country.
The Country Director of UNAIDS, Dr Bilali Camara, made this known to State House correspondents after paying a courtesy visit to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa.
According to him, the visit is to ask Osinbajo to use the National Economic Council’s channel to increase domestic funding for HIV/AIDS to sustain the national response and end the pandemic by 2030 as President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged to do.
“We have agreed on three points and we have agreed on the follow up steps which we really have to put in place so that we will continue this dialogue so that Nigeria will continue to benefit from his leadership and the whole UN support in terms of how to increase domestic funding to AIDS.
“That is critical because donors money cannot continue to sustain really national response to AIDS.
“Secondly, to really make sure that we are working together with pharmaceutical companies which have been pre-qualified and see how better we can support them to really produce anti-retroviral drugs for our people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, our people living with HIV/AIDS in West Africa as well as our people living with HIV/AIDS in Central Africa.
“We want to see Nigeria leading and taking that responsibility to make sure that at the end of the day we have drugs for our people living with HIV/AIDS who are close to seven million people.
“The last point which was also important is how we can use certain opportunities to make sure that we eliminate Mother-to-Child transmission of HIV.
“Nigeria represents 30 per cent scenario of the transmission.”
Camara, who is also the UNAIDS focal point for ECOWAS, said that UN was happy that Nigeria was making steady progress in the control of HIV/AIDS.
He said the country screened nearly seven million people, including three million pregnant women, and placed 800,000 other people on anti-retroviral drugs in 2014 alone.
The UNAIDS chief added that the country achieved zero new HIV infections among children and zero maternal AIDS-related deaths in Pampaida, Kaduna state, in 2015.
He said, “We are sure and we have seen it in Pampaida, Kaduna state, we have seen in Nasarawa, that we can make lots of progress in this area as long as we focus our attention on few LGAs which are high building LGAs where we can really make a difference.”
In his briefing notes during the visit, Camara pointed out that the country had a 3.2 per cent prevalence rate (about 3.4 million people) of HIV/AIDS comprising 58 per cent women, 33 per cent men and nine per cent children.
He said there were 170,000 AIDS-related deaths and 240,000 new infections in the country.
The country director said that with proper care and commitment of the Federal Government, mother-to-child transmission would be achieved with a 30 billion dollar net return and elimination of 700,000 new infections and 340,000 premature deaths by 2020.
“So that is the kind of statistical information that we made available for him to really allocate as much as possible so that we can better accelerate and fast track the response and make a difference,” he added.
Osinbajo expressed the readiness of the FG to collaborate with UNAID to facilitate local manufacture of drugs with four firms already certified for the project.
“Certainly the capacity exists in Nigeria to be able to produce those drugs for Nigerians, and the whole of west and central African countries. And we certainly can contribute to see how that happens,” he said.
Osinbajo commended the UNAIDS for its efforts towards the eradication of HIV/AIDS in the country and said that the Federal Government would explore the specific areas in which it might be able to support the pharmaceutical companies in Nigeria, who were able to locally manufacture the HIV drugs.
He praised the UNAIDS for keeping its eye on the ball and remaining focused in the fight against the disease, expressing hope that working together, both the Buhari administration and the UN would be able to achieve the HIV/AIDS eradication targets in the country.
Stating that the administration will look for a way to make a difference in healthcare generally and fight against HIV specifically, the Vice President assured that the government will find the resources to fund healthcare, especially concerning the HIV/AIDS epidemic in spite of prevailing financial challenges.