The Federal Government today stressed the need for all Nigerians to know their HIV status, saying there’s enough drugs and plans to cover the free treatment of all who test positive to the virus.
Chairman, Governing Board of National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Mrs. Pauline Tallen, gave the assurance at the flag-off of a medical outreach to IDPs in Kuchingoro camp Abuja in commemoration of this year’s World AIDS Day with the theme; “Know Your Status”.
She said: “The most important thing in Nigeria’s HIV response agenda is for all citizens to know their status. If people don’t know their HIV statuses, we’re in the dark. “So, with a loud voice, we’re calling on every Nigerian to submit himself or herself to get tested for HIV so as to know whether they are positive or negative to the virus”.
“The good news is that for those who are HIV positive, the government has enough drugs and plans in place to support and treat the affected for free. HIV is no longer a killer disease. You can get treated and live a normal life.”
Mrs. Tallen further assured that NACA will continue to do its best to ensure more advocacy is carried out by stakeholders to drive down the country’s burden of HIV and AIDS which has been estimated to be the second largest in the world.
Speaking also, the Director-General of the Agency, Dr. Sani Aliyu, noted that over 1,600 HIV treatment centers have been established across to country to support and cater to the treatment needs of about 1.1m Nigerians who are positive to the virus. He said 95 percent of the number are currently on treatment through donor agencies and the US government; adding that the Nigerian government was treating additional 60,000 people in Abia and Taraba states.
Dr. Aliyu said NACA had already secured the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari to add about 50,000 persons annually to its treatment programme. He, however, maintained that the people had a greater role to play in tackling the disease in Nigeria by submitting themselves for the free test and treatment services made available.
“As far as the government is concerned, we look after everybody who has tested positive for HIV irrespective of whether you reside in the rural or urban area. NACA will look after you, the government and our development partners will do likewise. “But, we must understand that the HIV response is a public responsibility for everyone. Have you got tested for HIV? That’s the first step,” Dr. Aliyu stressed.