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PEPFAR to partner Nigerian governors for HIV/AIDs free testing, treatment

Anietie Udobit,Abuja

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in Nigeria, and Department of Defense have sought the buy-in of the 36 Nigerian state governors for the abolition of user fees by all HIV positive persons in the country.

In a statement by NGF head of media and publicity, Abdulrazaque Barkindo, the proposal was tabled during a visit to the secretariat of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) on Tuesday.

Steve Haykin, the Country Director of USAID, who led the group, which is currently working on the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) project is also seeking political relevance and visibility in the area of HIV prevention so that Rapid Test Kits would be available in a more sustainable manner for the epidemic to reasonably reduce in the country.

According to PEPFAR Coordinator, Mark Gambrone, who spoke on behalf of the group, the strategic approach to diminishing the spread of the epidemic in the country is to identify and bridge the critical gaps so that there are more people receiving treatment than the ones that are dying.

On the team were Debra Conner, CDC Deputy Director, Solomon Odafe, also of CDC, Margaret Shelleng, and PEPFAR Multilateral Advisor among others.

What the team wants governors to do is to facilitate the supply of the Rapid Test Kits so as to accommodate more people who receive treatment, as experience has shown that more than 80 per cent of patients are usually domiciled in barely 20 per cent of the states.

This, according to the team, has made it easy for them to work towards wiping out the spread of the scourge and, by implication, could also be even easier for governors, in whatever state, to meet their needs easily.

Since its inception in Nigeria in 2004, PEPFAR has disbursed more than 5.1 billion U.S. dollars to support the Nigeria HIV/AIDS response. Some measures of success include about 772,000 men, women and children currently on HIV treatment, in Financial Year 2017 alone.

The Director-General of the NGF, Asishana Okauru, who received the group, said securing this quantum leap in the HIV epidemic control cannot come at a better time than now. He promised to facilitate their meeting with governors as soon as practicable.