Nigeria, being the second largest country (after Southern Africa) where HIV/ AIDS has inflicted so many people. the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire who formally launched the Guidelines in Abuja said that the event marked the culmination of an arduous journey that Nigeria embarked upon since 2001, searching for a stable and sustainably system for the delivery of HIV/AIDS services in the country.
He said that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was committed to the African Union position which sought to lead by example, adding that the commitment and the arrival of US President Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and Global Fund, led to massive investments in HIV/AIDS control measures and a rapid increase in access to life-saving treatment and care.
He expressed delight that the Guidelines were informed by the basic principles of equality, equity and social justice and they aligned strongly with the universal declarations of human rights as well as promote universal access to comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care for all persons in Nigeria.
Ehanire enumerated some of the highlights of the Guidelines to include: Test and Treat, meaning that everyone who tests positive to HIV is, without exception, immediately eligible for treatment, not omitting pregnant women in the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme, all persons who are at risk of contracting HIV infection are to be offered antiretroviral drugs as prevention.
The Guidelines also stated that all persons on treatment are entitled to at least one free viral load test annually and that great emphasis shall be placed on differentiated systems of care that are adjustable to the individual needs of the patients.
While commending the contributions of partners like PEPFAR and other UN Agencies like UNAIDS, Clinton Health Access Initiative, Civil Society Organisations and frontline health workers for their contributions, he urged Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) supporting HIV interventions to close ties with the Federal and State Ministries of Health, and also called on the body of People Living with HIV /AIDs to come fully on board.
Earlier, Mr. Obatunde Oladapo, Executive Director, PLAN Health Advocacy and Development Foundation, Ibadan was of the opinion that Nigeria should revise the treatment for People living with HIV stressing that empowering patients with vital information on treatment and monitoring of treatment of PLWHIV are imperative to reduction of infection. He also noted that stigmatisation of people living with HIV was a barrier to access to treatment adding that government should step up its campaign against discrimination of people living with HIV and AIDS.