By Doosuur Iwambe, Abuja
In its bid to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country, the federal government on Friday reaffirmed its commitment to remove all impediments to access to HIV and AIDS interventions aimed at halting the spread of infection in Nigeria.
Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who made this known in Abuja during the dissemination meeting of Alere HIV Combo Rapid Test Kit 2018 Evaluation Report and inauguration of operational guidelines for HIV self-testing in Nigeria, said that it has become necessary for the government to establish the link between testing and treatment.
According to Adewole, the goal could be achieved only when all the barriers and charges relating to the condition is successfully removed.
“All those charges must disappear. Whatever names we call it, we need to remove them; if we do not remove them when people tested positive they may find it difficult to move forward toward treatment.
“There is going to be a meeting today to look at how to re-strategize it and go beyond the rhetoric of banning service charges. We are working on modalities to empower civil society organizations and people living with HIV and AIDS to act as monitors so that where these service charges were being collected they (People Living with HIV and AIDS) will act as feedback mechanism.
The ministry has included HIV self-testing in the reviewed national HIV testing services guidelines and in appreciation of the need to access quality HIVST kits approved the conduct of maiden laboratory evaluation of Amethyst HIV 1 & 2 Self-Test Kit Saliva Cassette.
“The results of the evaluation which was conducted at the National External Quality Assessment Laboratory, Zaria met the requirements for the kit to be used for self-testing of HIV 1 & 2 in Nigeria. However, there are other HIVST self – test kits, such as Oraquick (saliva) and Insti (blood) that are presently undergoing the process of evaluation’’ he said.
While renewing government’s commitment towards eliminating mother to child transmission of HIV, Adewole added that the goal is that no Nigerian child should be born with HIV in this century.
The minister said the operational guidelines for the delivery of HIV self-testing in Nigeria 2018 was developed for effective implementation of HIV self-testing, adding that the guidelines outline the principles for HIV Self -Testing delivery approaches and packages, quality assurance and coordination for HIV self- testing in Nigeria.
Earlier, Director, Department of Public Health, Dr. Evelyn Ngige, in her welcome remarks said that HIV testing is the entry point or gateway to accessing HIV prevention or treatment services.
She commended the efforts of the national HIV testing task team and the national evaluation team for the production of the guidelines and the successful completion of the test kit evaluation respectively.