Hope that the country is winning the war against the dreaded Human Immunodeficiency Virus/ Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, HIV/ AIDS, was dampened with the latest statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS stating that HIV/AIDS accounted for 59.3percent of female deaths recorded in Nigeria for four years on the average. The new report which chronicles the status of women and men in Nigeria between 2010 and 2013 also indicated that among the total diseases reported during the aforesaid period, HIV/ AIDS affected females the most.
The latest report was to assess whether the 1995 Beijing Declaration by the fourth World Conference on Women, with participating government expressing their commitment ’to advance the goals of inequality, development and peace for all women everywhere in the interest of humanity are being achieved” .However, the NBS report shows that more efforts are still needed to curb the increase of HIV/AIDS among women in the country.
We recall that former President Goodluck Jonathan raised the hopes of Nigerians when he declared that Nigeria has made steady progress in combating HIV/AIDS since the Abuja Declaration in 2001 and that government has the political will and commitment to sustain the progress made so far. He claimed that government increased HIV funding from N2.5 billion in 2002 to over N5 billion in 2011and also signed a partnership framework with the United States Government that will see government spending on HIV increase from the current 25 per cent to 50 per cent in 2015.
This sentiment continued to be re- echoed as government catalogued the achievements recorded in the fight against HIV/ AIDS. For instance, HIV/AIDS which was 4.6 per in 2008 declined to 4.1 per cent in 2010. While the number of people living with the disease receiving anti-retroviral drugs, which stood at about 230,000 at the end of 2008, increased to 500,000 as the number of sites for providing these drugs increased from 296 at the end of 2008 to 491 at the end of 2011. Similarly, Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission, PMTCT, of HIV/AIDS increased from seven per cent in 2008 to 32 percent in 2012 and the number of PMTCT centres increased from 533 in 2008 to 800 in 2012. With respect to HIV counseling and testing, HCT, the number of testing centres has equally increased from 896 in 2008 to 1357 at the end of 2011. So are the number of Nigerians been tested.
As consolatory as this achievement are, more still need to be done, particularly on HIV/AIDS administration. A statistics from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS, National Agency for the Control of AIDS,NACA and the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, NIMR, said Nigeria has the second highest number of people living with HIV/ AIDS – about 3,459,363 in the world. And the records also claimed that no fewer than 217,148 AIDS-related deaths are recorded annually in the country, while an estimated 1000 new HIV infections occur daily and in 2012 alone an estimated 388,864 new cases were recorded
It is against this backdrop that the war must be sustained and the seeming achievements recorded over the years improved upon for better result. The new Buhari Government must as a matter of priority invest more in the management of HIV/AIDS, and support the efforts of those involved in the war to end the spread and its other problems.
Also, more attention should be tailored towards the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission, PMTCT, which coverage still remains low. And when compared with other sub-Saharan countries with high prevalence rates, Nigeria ranks very low in its capacity to reduce new HIV infections. Whereas rates of new HIV infections have been dramatically reduced since 2001 by 73 per cent in Malawi, 71 per cent in Botswana, 68 per cent in Namibia, 58 per cent in Zambia, 50 per cent in Zimbabwe and 41 per cent in South Africa and Swaziland respectively, Nigeria is still a far cry from these nations. This trend must not be allowed to continue.
We thus call on the government to invest more as well as encourage greater participation of non-governmental organizations in the management of HIV/AIDS, beside the basic precautionary conduct of abstinence, marital fidelity and condom usage being canvassed by health personnel. Apart from campaigns focusing on preventive strategies to curb the disease, Public Health Centers, PHC, should be upgraded, and equipped with well trained staff to deliver comprehensive HIV services. Government should also intensify its capacity-building programmes, while strengthening and coordination of civil society groups should be given adequate attention.
Above all, our health providers must ensure that new infections are reduced and the decline in the prevalence of the disease is sustained.