As the World's AIDS Day was celebrated Sunday, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday said notwithstanding the various challenges confronting the efforts to eradicate the virus, Nigeria was winning the war against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
The president stated this at a ceremony to mark the day at the Bwari Area Council Secretariat in Abuja. Represented by the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, Jonathan observed that the progress being made was rather been impeded by huge resources gap.
He called on state governors and the private sector to support in the mobilisation of resource to fund the implementation of the Comprehensive Response Plan for HIV and related infectious diseases in the country.
Represented by the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, the president urged all Nigerians to know their HIV status as a first step towards securing their future and preventing further spread of the virus.
Jonathan also informed the gathering that the African Union's (AU's) commitment to eradicate the virus remained on course, as African governments had made a commitment to end the HIV scourge on the continent by the year 2030.
The Director General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Prof. John Idoko, speaking at the event, urged governments at all levels and the private sector to support the implementation of the President's Comprehensive Plan for HIV, adding that it remained the most strategic plan to nib the spread of HIV/AIDS in the bud.
Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon in a message, said there was optimism that the world was progress in responding to HIV pandemic both in prevention and cure.
He observed that "there are significant decreases in new infections and deaths, and we are making good progress in realizing our target of ensuring 15 million people have access to antiretroviral treatment by 2015. This is crucial to halting and reversing the AIDS epidemic for good.
"But, as revealed in the UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report for 2013, there are still worrying signals that some regions and countries are falling behind. We are making advances in reaching vulnerable populations through efforts to eliminate stigma and discrimination, but there is still much to do to end this problem."
However, the Plateau AIDS Control Agency (PLACA) has lamented the poor performance of Nigeria in its response to HIV pandemic in the country, noting that Nigeria is next to South Africa in the population of people living with the burden of the disease, and blaming the performance on poor coordination among various groups handling the management of the disease in the country.
The Executive Director of PLACA, Dr Francis Magaji, who disclosed this during a press conference in Jos to mark 25th World AIDS Day, added that it is in response to the poor and embarrassing indices that President Goodluck Jonathan has charged all stakeholders both at state and National levels to be more proactive “to see how we can prevent the spread of the disease, support those with the infection, and assist children that have been orphaned by the disease.”
He said it is even of greater concern that, Plateau State is 6th among the 12 states with 70% of the burden of the disease in Nigeria, adding that this has prompted Governor Jonah Jang to also make a renewed commitment to fighting the disease to a halt, and the state Assembly has also passed anti-stigma bill, which is aimed at reducing stigmatization of those living with the disease. “Plateau became the first state to constitute the management team for HIV, and Jang has made budgetary provision to this effect”, he noted.
He blamed the case in Plateau on crisis, which has made jobless youths vulnerable to the disease, noting also that the state cannot account for how security personnel posted to the state for internal security operations get in since it was an exclusive prerogative of the defence headquarters to do so.
Observing that 50 to 80 thousand babies have been infected through vertical transmission from mother to child, Magaji noted that the indices is not good for our country considering that in some advanced nations mother to child transmission has been reduced from over 40% to as low as 2% with available technologies.
He said the 1st December World AIDS Day was set aside to remember those that have passed on as a result of the disease and those that are still carrying the burden.