International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) Cape Town, South Africa.
The coalition is protesting the alleged death of a colleague who they addressed simply as Gloria from Delta State after using a locally produced Anti Retroviral (ARV) drug procured by the FMoH through the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) fund. They also alleged that most of their colleagues were suffering adverse drug reactions after using the drugs.
The CSOs led by Ibrahim Umoru of NEPLWHAN and Mayowa Joel of TAM demanded among other things immediate withdrawal of the drugs from all the free national AIDS treatment programme sites; investigation of how the drug was procured in the first place from a non World Health Organisation (WHO) pre qualified company; biomedical analysis of the drugs to ascertain its toxicity and efficacy.
The group claimed that they had written to NASCP and the Minister of Health, Prof Onyebuchi Chukwu, to complain about the drug, which they allege had been introduced since 2012 but did not get any favourable response and therefore decided to take the matter to ICASA.
It took the intervention of the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS, Michel Sidibe, who promised the coalition a one on one meeting later in the day, by 6pm, with all the stakeholders for them to calm down.
The group, however, threatened to continue to disrupt any presentation at the conference by the FMoH, the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) or any government agency at the conference until the issue is addressed.
The Coalition who enjoyed the support of other group of persons living with the virus from other parts of Africa exonerated NACA of any wrong doing but indicted NASCP.
They also blamed the Chairman Senate Committee on Health, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, and Chairman House of Representative Committee on Health, Dr. Joseph Haruna Kigbu, who were at the meeting for neglect of their oversight functions. The coalition had earlier on Sunday disrupted the presentation of the Director General of NACA, Prof. John Idoko.
Also, activists yesterday at ICASA from different parts of Africa led by aidshealth.org AHF South Africa demanded that China should give $1 billion to the Global Funds for AIDS TB and Malaria to help improve access to treatment and care for persons living with the virus.
Umoru said: “Sometime last year we found in treatment sites in Nigeria a drug from one company (name withheld). They were delivered to treatment sites and these drugs were been dispensed to PLWHAs. In our assumption we said sin this drug was coming from the federal government supply line we thought everything was alright to the point that in January this year, the makers of this drugs donated 150 packs to the Lagos State Network were I was the coordinator.
literature, a mechanic, a stark illiterate will not do. We now started asking questions and we found out that the FMoH bought these drugs with the MDG fund.
“Initially we were trying to take it up with NACA but in our finding we found this company had approached NACA that is coordinating the Global Fund programme and NACA refused to patronize them because we heard that it was because of some issue bordering around WHO prequalification. We found in our investigation that this drug does not have WHO prequalification. Then we now asked questions. We tried to engage with the Ministry and nobody wanted to meet with us. We sent letters, we sent mails, some of us even had meetings with them with our executive officers and they promised they will get back to us next week that they need to invite us to sit down and discuss.
“Believe me as I speak with you up till now nobody has contacted us. They gave us on week, that one week has not materialized. People are complaining about this drug only for us to loose one of our dear members on December 1, 2013. A wonderful activist, advocate both on TB and HIV died in Delta State because of complications of her complain about this drug.
“We felt enough is enough. We were touched, we were pinched. So we made instances, tried to engage with the government but nobody was responding to us. We now said okay we would take it to ICASA. That is why we have decided to come to ICASA here to cry to the world. Our people cannot keep dying. Painfully our Minister was supposed to be at a session where they were talking about ‘End of AIDS: Myth or Reality?’ Is that how we want to end AIDS? A lot of us have been very strong voice on local production of ARVs. For God’s sake we are not advocating the local production of quick death.
“The most painful thing we got from this picketing is for Dr. Ngige to say she has not been able to see us, that it is only mails. I feel really touched. We are happy the UNAIDS man has appealed to us that he wants to meet us this evening. We pray that comes true.
“We are asking only three things from government. One, we want to be convinced that of the WHO prequalification status of this company. Secondly, government should make available the due diligence process that led to the selection of this company. Thirdly, we want an independent analysis of the bio-effective content of these drugs.
“If we get these three, we will continue taking the drugs. I am happy that at the World AIDS Day the national body had given directives that PLWHAs should refuse these drugs at centres where they are given. I went to the clinic last Monday to be dispensed this drug, which the Global Fund had refused. How did this drug find its way to Global Fund centres? These are questions that we need answers.
“Every representation of the government of Nigeria we see here to present anything, we are going to picket.”
Idoko said: “About three weeks ago I got a call from NEPLWHAN especially Ibrahim and Oba to say that there were some drugs that were procured by FMoH using MDG funds by (name withheld) and that the drug looks substandard, the packaging and everything and that they were coming to address the press in Abuja. They sent the mail round and I advised them that they should make a report to the Minister of Health, to the Chairman Senate Committee on Health and possibly to MDG that it can be looked at from that angle.
conference he will summon all the parties involved that is the FMoH, MDG, National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), NACA, NASCP so that we can look at the issue and forestall any such incident in the future. As I told you, I am here with them we have been discussing it and they have also decided that at their own level they are going to take appropriate actions to investigate the matter.
“But yesterday (Sunday) there was a session on key populations that I was co-chairing with Justice Cameroon when they entered and began demonstration. It was very well handled. Justice Cameroon accepted that they needed to vent their anger. I on my own promised them because they asked me that they want the drugs withdrawn. As I speak I know that in all the Global Fund sites we have asked for those drugs to be withdrawn. But I can assure you that as I go back in all the centres that those drugs are withdrawn.
“I believe that this is something that we care going to have a national discussion on so that we do not get substandard drugs into our system.”
place? Idoko said: “I don’t know, this is a FMoH issue. So FMoH can best answer it.”