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‘Shortage of Counseling, Testing Centres Fuel HIV Infection’

‘Shortage of Counseling, Testing Centres Fuel HIV Infection’ * As U.S diplomat commends FG for expanding ART access
Acting Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Nigeria, Lagos, Kevin Krapf has blamed the high prevalence of Nigerians living with HIV on the shortage of HIV testing and counseling centers in the country.
Making his views known at the 2017 World AIDS Day programme organised by the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos on Monday, Krapf said the shortage of such HIV-friendly centres was the reason many people living with HIV (PLWHA) in Nigeria were not aware of their HIV status.
The situation was similarly blamed for why many Nigerians miss out on counseling and voluntary testing services.
Similarly, the acting Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate General said low access of antiretroviral (ARV) treatment remains an issue for people living with HIV in Nigeria.
The theme for World AIDS Day 2017 is “Increasing Impact through Transparency, Accountability and Partnerships.”
According to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Nigeria has the second largest HIV epidemic in the world, with an estimated 3.4 million living with the virus and has one of the highest new infection rates in sub-Saharan Africa.
To this end, Krapf therefore commended the Federal Government for using domestic funds to provide antiretroviral drugs to an additional 50,000 people living with HIV each year.
He said, “The U.S. government, through PEPFAR, has helped not only save and improve millions of lives, but also transformed the global HIV/AIDS response.
“Currently, more than 720,000 Nigerians are on PEPFAR-supported HIV treatment. The President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR/Emergency Plan) is a US governmental initiative to address the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and help save the lives of those suffering from the disease, primarily in Africa.
“Approximately four million Nigerians have received HIV counseling and testing services in 2017.”
Speaking further, Krapf disclosed that HIV prevention messages and activities have reached over 300,000 people identified as most-at-risk, and approximately 50,000 pregnant women have received antiretroviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
In his presentation, Emmanuel Olaoti of the Society for Family Health (SFH), similarly blamed the high prevalence of HIV in Nigeria, on stigma and discrimination which he noted was being perpetuated by people in communities.
He however highlighted that in spite of an existing law proscribing stigma, the nation’s weak legal system has made it difficult to tackle stigma. “We have very weak legal system. We have a lot of laws but the enforcement has been difficult. When the right of people living with HIV/AIDS is violated, they don’t get justice.”
Olaoti therefore urged the relevant authority to ensure the enforcement of the relevant laws as a strategy to discourage stigma, adding that every member of the Nigerian society has responsibility to tackle HIV/AIDS.
While calling for social inclusion for all PLWHA, Olaoti urged everyone to know their status and embrace up-to-date information to help stem the tide of HIV.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Lagos State AIDS Control Agency (LASACA), Dr. Oluseyi Temowo explained that it was imperative for Nigeria to achieve the 90-90-90 policy, saying Brazil has attained over 80 per cent success of that document while Nigeria remained the country  with the second highest HIV. “We need to be conscientious to exterminate HIV from our society,” he added.
According to the Provost of the College of Medicine University of Lagos, Prof. Foluso Ebun Lesi who was represented by Prof. Edamisan Temiye, a consultant paediatrician heamatology/oncology,  a lot of progress has been made globally in the control of HIV.
He said the policy of 90-90-90- came about because “it has been shown that the likelihood of someone with low viral load transferring HIV virus is extremely reduced. Through this we could end the epidemic in the country,” he said.
While Lesi noted that Nigeria was still lagging behind in the control of HIV, he urged everyone to encourage HIV positive persons to take their drugs.  He said, “HIV drugs are very safe; they work; they save lives and help PLWH achieve low viral loads.”

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