HIV/AIDS: Medical experts want govts to properly equip laboratories

NGO wants FG to focus on key populations in HIV/AIDS programming
United Bank for Africa

Two medical experts have called on the three tiers of government to properly equip laboratories in the nation’s health facilities to facilitate diagnosis and treatment of HIV/AIDS.

They are Dr Bamidele Iwalokun, a medical researcher and Dr Funke Oki, the Deputy Director Programme Coordination Department, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA).

The doctors made the call in separate interviews with Newsverge in Lagos.

They spoke on the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) claims that one million women and girls became newly infected with HIV, while 470, 000 women and girls died of AIDS-related illnesses.

UNAIDS made the disclosure in its latest report released to commemorate the International Women’s Day celebrated on March 8.

The report said, “Nearly one million women are becoming infected with HIV every year and only half of all women living with HIV have access to lifesaving treatment.

“It makes AIDS now the leading cause of death worldwide among women between the ages of 30 and 49.’’

Iwalokun, also the Head of Immunology and Vaccinology Research Department, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, said that equipping the laboratories would help people to have access to HIV prevention and control interventions.

He said, “It is no longer news that the toll of HIV/AIDS on Nigeria adolescents, especially among girls, is one of the highest in the world.

“This is in spite of the activities of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) in rolling out HIV control programmes through various platforms we have in Nigeria.

“New cases of HIV/AIDS per year are still unacceptably higher than many high burden countries.

“The reason is that more than 4O per cent Nigerians living with HIV do not know their status.

“Many infected Nigerians who knew their status are still afraid and feel ashamed to access treatment and counselling services at the official centres.’’

According to him, the consequences of these behaviour and attitude are continuing transmission of HIV virus to innocent people, because some are not aware of the scourge.

Also, Oki said that no fewer than three million people were living with HIV in Nigeria.

She said that the national HIV prevalence was put at 3O per cent, while I7O, OOO people died of AIDS annually.

On gender distribution of HIV in Nigeria, Oki said, “we have 11 per cent of children, 32 per cent of men and 57 per cent of women.

“This means that women remain at higher risk of having HIV than men in the country.

“AIDS is the second leading cause of deaths among adolescents in Africa and the need to prevent transmission of infections to the innocent ones is very important.”

Oki said that women need to be empowered to reduce their risks of having HIV; identifying and placed those that were currently infected on ART medication.

“Every state must take ownership of the HIV/AIDS programme for sustainability and to achieve the 9O:9O:9O goals of UNAIDS.

“About 75 per cent of one thousand ART sites are secondary health facilities and they are all controlled by the states.

“It empowers states to take ownership of health sector response and reduce the unit cost of delivering ART,” she said.

Oki called for the expansion of basic healthcare service package including prevention of mother-to-child transmission, which could reach three million pregnant women annually.

She said that the South African Government was responsible for about 😯 per cent of its HIV/AIDS response which has changed the game completely in the country.

Oki said that there were strategies for optimising HIV treatment services including community models for ART delivery, pharmacy drug refill system, adolescent friendly services and adolescent transitions clinics.

She also called for scaling up of the use of antiretroval drugs in the country.