If all goes according to plan, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) hopes to suppress HIV by 2020. Stating this in Abuja, the Communications and Global Outreach Officer, UNAIDS Nigeria, Charles-Martin Jjuuko, said the group had organised a one-day seminar on the suppression of the pandemic under the new model 90-90-90. Interestingly, the new model was launched in Melbourne Australia at the 20th International AIDS conference of July 2014. Under the programme, more people would get counselled, tested and placed on treatment in Nigeria.
The acronym 90-90-90 stands for “90 percent of all people living with HIV” to know their status. Definitely, Nigerians, especially those with HIV/AIDS, have every reason to cheer this development. This is because the country has been losing ground in the handling of the HIV/AIDS treatment, even when the scourge is abating in most parts of the world.
This fact was disclosed in 2014 at the American Conference on the Treatment of HIV in Denver, Colorado. The consensus was that Nigeria is no longer taking reasonable steps to protect its vulnerable members against the spread of the disease, although it has been making considerable efforts to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on sufferers.
That was why in 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan launched the Presidents Comprehensive Response Plan (PCRP) to accelerate the achievement of key interventions like PMTCT and the HCT. The initiative which is expected to cost N140 billion aims to avail 80 million Nigerians the knowledge of their HIV status; enrol additional 600,000 eligible adults and children on ART; provide ART for 244,000 HIV pregnant for prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT), provide access to combination prevention services for 500,000 most at risk populations (MARPs).
Giving boost to the programme, the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme (SURE-P) recently donated N8bn towards the elimination of Mother- to- Child Transmission of HIV and provision of treatments for those in need.
The fund has seen the PMTCT coverage rise from 17 per cent in 2010 to 30 percent in 2014. Even at that, stakeholders are also coming up with initiatives that will address HIV-related issues like discrimination and stigmatisation of persons living with the disease, which is still widespread.
And to address this, President Jonathan has signed into law the Anti-Stigma Bill. The law will help more Nigerians seek testing treatment and care without fear of stigma and discrimination.
It is remarkable that within the measured time frame of 2005-2013, the country’s policies and actions have seen a reduction up to 35 per cent of new cases of HIV infection. Assuredly, Nigeria will be able to end the pandemic by the projected year, 2030, if the current tempo is consolidated. An HIV-free generation is possible if all those responsible for its elimination will get to work with all the zeal and seriousness required of them.