WE NOTE with dismay plans by international donor agencies to suspend funding of Nigeria’s HIV/AIDS program. This was contained in a recent news report. According to the information in a statement reportedly issued by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, he stated that Nigerian foreign partners in the fight against the dreaded HIV/ AIDS scourge were withdrawing funding on the project. By this action he explained that the lives of no less than 3.4mllion Nigerians already affected with the infection will be further jeopardized. Senator Saraki himself a medical doctor lamented the action. He said the action will not only spell doom for Nigeria’s HIV/AIDS program but was a major setback for sufferers. “Information at our disposal reveals that significant global support for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria has been withdrawn”, he said, adding that by the decision, the fate of Nigerians put at over 3million suffering from the diseases would remain uncertain. He therefore called on government at all levels to brace up for the new challenge and continue to work in close collaboration with international partners in order not to jeopardize the treatment of the affected persons. Indeed the report is worrisome even though no significant funding figures have been made public. But available records show that since 1986 when the first case of HIV was reported in Nigeria, funding for tackling the disease mainly came from international donor agencies like the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR and the Global Fund for Tuberculosis, AIDS and Malaria, GFTAM. These are the largest donors to HIV programs in Nigeria. Before the launch of PEPFAR in 2003, access to antiretroviral treatments and key investigations such as CD4 count and viral load was very scarce. And so the country’s HIV/AIDS programs depended on increasing access to voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) services and screening of blood products. And Because of the non existence of drugs, little attention was paid to access to Anti Retro Viral drugs for treatment of the disease. In 1991, USAID started providing funds for HIV/AIDS programs under an initiative known as AIDS Control and Prevention Project, AIDSCAP. AIDSCAP focused on HIV prevention programs such as distribution of condoms, health education, and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, STDs, and in 1992, the British government provided a grant of £100,000 to the Nigerian government to help monitor the HIV epidemic. However, HIV/AIDS funding in Nigeria changed in 2003 following the launch of PEPFAR, which made a $15.9 billion commitment to fight the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. This donation is said to be the largest by any nation to fight a disease internationally. PEPFAR’s main priorities in Nigeria are HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care, support and health systems strengthening .The Office of the US Global AIDS Coordinator, OGAC, coordinates the implementation of PEPFAR’s activities; it works with other United States Government agencies, especially the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), US Department of Defense (DoD), and United States Agency for International Development, USAID. According to Nigeria’s 2008 Partnership Framework (PF), on current
funding in Nigeria, about 80% of the total HIV spending came from PEPFAR, while the GoN contributed only about 7%(5). However, more recently GoN has increased its support to about 23% as has the Global Fund with its approval of the 2012 round 11 grants. PEPFAR now accounts for about 43% of total HIV spending in Nigeria, while the Global Fund accounts for about 33%(13, 42). Other major donors include the UK Department for International Development (DFID), World Bank Multi-country AIDS loans, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Canadian Agency for International Development (CIDA), and the United Nations Agencies. The Partnership Framework signed by the GoN and the United States Government (USG) was a first major step towards more country ownership and sustainability of Nigeria’s HIV programs. To this effect, one of the major targets contained in the Partnership Framework was for the GoN to scale up its contributions by at least 50% by 2015. Other donors are the Global HIV/AIDS Initiative Nigeria, Global Fund for Tuberculosis, AIDS and Malaria. As it is, the funding is huge and expectedly we are really concerned about the development. It is a sad situation we least expected at this critical time the country needs help from anybody, including our international partners. Again we plead that rather than abandon Nigeria at this cross road time, they should continue to assist the country in the spirit of being a brothers’ keeper. Certainly if there is anytime the country really needs help is now. But as it were and even as we plead, we see it as a turning point in history of Nigeria’s evolvement in herbal medicine and this is the appropriate time to begin to look inwards and develop our own health care systems and therapies which can sustain or fight any ailment no matter how deadly. After all, how long shall we continue to be a beggar and dependent nation, when there are herbalists and pharmacists who are claimants to HIV/AIDS cure and other deadly diseases? Where are the Abdulais and Amodus? Invariably we see Foreign withdrawal of aids and funding as the turning point for our nation, no doubt if the authorities can begin to collaborate with relevant herbal practitioners and critical stakeholders. This was the position of the Minister of Science Technology, Dr Ogbonaya Onu, who said, “We must look inwards’’ at a recent herbal fair in Abuja. But as the present administration policy drive is looking inwards and diversifying the economy, diversify and patronize local drugs which efficacy is said to be clinically tested by international laboratories should be the utmost concern for us all and stakeholders. This is the only way out of the current situation before these funds are finally withdrawn. And if we believe in the local parlance that there is no harm in trial and begin to believe in what we do on our own, then there will be reduction on dependence largely on overseas drugs as well as funding which in truth is longer there. The question now is, how long will Nigeria be spoon fed, with free foreign drugs and financial assistance when we call ourselves the giant of Africa and claim to have the local wherewithal that can cure this ailments. First we must believe in and develop our own therapies and herbal systems. For if we do and cling to such faith, then Nigeria can be great also in medicine: import products and also provide funding and medical aids to less privileged countries.

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