By: Mayen Etim
KADUNA, North-West, Nigeria – The Programme Director, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria Foundation, (PSNF), Munir Elelu, has described the HIV prevalence rate in Nigeria as a matter of grave concern to public health.
He stated this during the launch of HIV Self-testing, (HIVST) in the Northwest zone held in Kaduna on Tuesday, September 29, 2020.
Elelu who is also the Deputy President (North), Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, (PSN) said, for all to be able to achieve the United Nations goal of 95/95/95 per cent in 2030, all hands must be on deck.
Also speaking, the Executive Secretary of Civil Society for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, (CISHAN), Dr. Walter Ugwuocha, said Kaduna State is not doing enough in HIV testing, pointing out that if things continued like this by 2030 the state will be far behind other States in HIV Prevalence rate.
According to him, the state might be left behind in achieving the United Nations goal of 95/95/95 2030 target if urgent steps are not taken to improve its awareness campaign on HIV.
Dr. Ugwuocha said Kaduna state needed to embark on massive sensitization on HIV self-testing. He equally advised the State Government to procure the self-testing kits and make them available to the grassroots.
“Nigeria loses about 53,000 citizens to HIV/AIDS-related deaths annually, a study by the National Aids Impact Assessment Study has revealed.
“From this study, it appeared that the HIV prevalence is reducing with about 1.9 million people currently living with the virus, 130,000 new HIV infection per annum while many are yet to know their status, hence, the launch of HIV self-testing campaign to realise the United Nations goal of 95/95/95 target by the year 2030,” he said.
In his remark, member, Governing Council, (CISHAN), Northwest, Emmanuel Bonnet, said the launch of HIVST campaign in the zone was paramount because all over the country NACA, CISHAN were partnering stakeholders to ensure everyone has a good understanding of what HIVST is.
“We also need to let the communities take up the service on their own. For example, if you do a test at home, you should know what to do next if the result is positive which is to go and have a confirmation test and if the result is positive again, you need a referer to get the necessary care you need.
“We have NURTW, market women, pharmacists, civil society, media and other stakeholders here to unbundle the services. We do understand that there is a lot of fear when people are positive or get the wrong result. That is why the stakeholders are being trained to handle any issue that may arise,” Bonnet said.
Chief of Party/Country Lead, Nigeria, John Snow Incorporated Nigeria, (JSI), Olawole Durosinmi-Etti, said his organisation technically support the government and other stakeholders to improve access to HIV services in Nigeria.
“The prevalence based on the research recently conducted by the National Aids Impact Assessment Study revealed that we have less number of people living with HIV AIDS compare to about three million we thought we had before.
“We have about 1.9 million currently based on that study. But there are still several people who don’t know their status.
“So, this meeting will tell people that they don’t need to go to the hospital before they know their HIV status because they can visit a community pharmacist or a patent medicine stores and ask for HIV testing kit just like someone can ask for the pregnancy test kit,” he added.