The United States, Thursday, reiterated its commitment to the funding of HIV/AIDS programme despite its differences with Nigeria over the signing of the anti-gay bill into law.
The US government reassured Nigeria of its commitment by boosting its funding for the disease to Nigeria with $.5 billion in 2014.
Speaking at the premiere of the popular TV series programme, Shuga at Silverbird Cinema in Abuja, the US Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, said he was misquoted by several reports of US’ intention to withdraw HIV/AIDS funding as a result of the recent Same-sex Marriage Act signed by President Goodluck Jonathan.
“I had not planned to discuss Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which was recently signed into law, I want, however, to clarify what I said on Monday when I was asked about the subject.
“Some of the subsequent reports have suggested that I said the US was going to withdraw its support for HIV/AIDS programme in Nigeria as a result of the bill. That is not the case. Let me be clear, our commitment, our pledge remains unwavering,” Entwistle told the audience.
The US envoy substantiated his position earlier, stating that, “what I did say was that we, and, I imagine all HIV/AIDS donors will have to watch carefully how the bill is implemented and enforced with an eye towards its potential effect on HIV/AIDS programme here.”
In its resolve to distill speculations on the subject, the US government, he explained, was to increase its HIV/AIDS funding in the country upward.
He said over the period of “ten years, US committed and spent over $3.4 billion on HIV/AIDS, this year, we will spend $.5 billion,” adding, “While we have high hopes for the success of the programme, much remains to be done here.”
Speaking at the screening of the movie, Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, applauded the US government’s efforts in teaming up with Nigeria to prevent the spread of the virus.
Chukwu expressed belief that the movie, SHUGA, is one of the best strategies to increase awareness among the young, stressing that, government was working hard to ensure that public awareness on the virus is spread across all strata of the society.
Also speaking, Director General of National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Prof. John Idoko, said Nigerian youths need to be more conscious of the pandemic in ensuring that preventive measures become part of their daily living.
Idoko explained that “fusing sexual health messaging with gripping storylines, Shuga aims to raise awareness among young people about HIV prevention and reproductive health in Nigeria, as well as other public health issues affecting them including living with HIV; disclosing your status; getting tested; condom use; gender based violence; gender equality; women’s empowerment; family planning; pregnancy; transactional sex; multiple concurrent partners; stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV; and parent/child communication.”