As the World’s AIDS Day was celebrated Sunday, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday said Nigeria was winning the war against the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the various challenges confronting the efforts to eradicate the virus notwithstanding.
The president, who was represented by the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, stated this at a ceremony to mark the day at the Bwari Area Council Secretariat in Abuja, observed that the progress being made was rather been impeded by huge resources gap, even as the Plateau AIDS Control Agency (PLACA) said the government was not doing enough.
He therefore 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.
The president also urged all Nigerians to know their HIV status as a first step towards securing their future and preventing further spread of the virus.
Jonathan 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.
Meanwhile, the Plateau AIDS Control Agency (PLACA) has rated the country low in the fight against HIV. Lamenting the poor performance of Nigeria in its response to HIV pandemic in the country, the Plateau AIDS Control Agency (PLACA) noted that Nigeria is next to South Africa in the population of people living with the burden of the disease, and blamed the performance on poor coordination among various groups handling the management of the disease in the country.
Disclosing this at a press conference in Jos to mark 25th World AIDS Day, the Executive Director of PLACA, Dr Francis Magaji, said 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.
Also speaking at the event, Director General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Prof. John Idoko 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.