CSOs seek accountability in the HIV response in Nigeria

Following the global call for accountability with donor funds to combat HIV, civil society organizations (CSOs) in Nigeria, resounded this call during the 2016 CSOs Accountability Forum held in Abuja. The forum which had the theme: “Fast-tracking stakeholders’ commitment and actions towards achieving the UNIADS 90-90-90 targets by 2020 and ending AIDS as public health threat by 2030”, was organized by the Treatment Access Mobilisers Initiative (TAM) and other partners with the aim of galvanising CSOs efforts in accountability in the HIV response in Nigeria. Several stakeholders present at the event doled out remarks on the HIV response in-country and what must happen to achieve the 90:90:90 target.

The UNAIDS 90:90:90 target aims to fast-track efforts to end the AIDS epidemic by 2020 by ensuring, 90% of all people living with HIV would have been diagnosed, 90% of those diagnosed placed on sustained antiretroviral treatment and 90% of all people receiving treatment will have viral suppression.

Speaking at the forum, Dr. Bilali Camara, the Country Director of UNAIDS said Nigeria is on track to end the HIV epidemic by 2030 but advised that this can only be achieved if civil societies stay committed to demanding for accountability and ensure proper data collection and dissemination.

“Nigeria can end the HIV epidemic by using effecting data collection and accountability tools. This will promote the test and treat model where once diagnosed, a person can start receiving treatment immediately. This would lead to a decline in new HIV infections which forms the basis of the UNAIDS 90:90:90 targets. It is achievable in Nigeria if properly put to use”, he said.

The Nigerian government continues to play supporting roles to donor funded programs in addressing the needs of people living with HIV (PLHIV). However, her support has not been adequate to ensure widespread access to treatment services and this is slowing down efforts to achieve the 90:90:90 targets. There is an existing gap in provision of better therapies and making them accessible to a broader population of people living with HIV

Addressing participants at the forum, Mike Olugbile from the World Bank said that the HIV epidemic in Nigeria is stabilizing but the current trend is not sufficient to meet the UNAIDS ambitious 90:90:90 target by 2020. He therefore called for a scale up of the delivery of existing HIV prevention tools such as condoms, lubricants and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in a culturally sensitive manner to improve the national HIV response. Dr. Baba Gana Adam from the Tuberculosis Network called for more synergy between CSOs to ensure proper implementation of policies and improve access to treatment, reiterating that if there is no synergy, PLHIV face the risk of neglect and death from opportunistic infections.

 

Dr. Emeka Asadu, the Head HIV Treatment, Care and Support at the Federal Ministry of Health, informed that currently, there is limited funding available for HIV in Nigeria with the bulk of services in the country coming from external donors.

“There are an estimated 3.5million PLHIV in Nigeria and of this number, about 860,000 people are on treatment. The ministry is working to ensure that PLHIV ensure do not only get treatment but high quality treatment.  However, we need to address the question of how to get all PLHIV on treatment and ensure universal access to basic good health supporting services. This is where the CSOs play a crucial role because we are all in this together. Our current treatment guideline prescribes the minimum acceptable standard of care and services accruable to a person living positively. UNAIDS and its 90:90:90 target has pointed us in the direction to go and we are ambitiously moving in that direction”, he said.

Walter Ugwuocha  from the Civil Society for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (CISHAN) stated that all the treatment models currently used in Nigeria are donor funded and non-sustainable which puts the dream of achieving target 90:90:90 in Nigeria at an unrealistic position. He further stated that CSOs must ensure that they lead their own researches and produce their own data for sustainability to be achieved.

“As CSOs, we must move in the trajectory of income generating plan for our organisations to achieve donor independency. Again, judicious use of funds and proper distribution of health supplies must be encouraged. We must devise means to independently support essential treatment services and we can do this if PLHIV make contributions in the formulation of policies”, he concluded.

The forum which plans to hold yearly is aiming at ensuring accountability, accessibility, availability and affordability of essential health services for PLHIV to achieve zero new HIV infections in Nigeria in line with the target 90:90:90.