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HIV patients invade conference venue, protest poor funding

Some protesters under the aegis of Society for Women and Children Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (SOWCHAN) on Tuesday invaded the Abuja venue of the first National Conference on HIV Prevention in Nigeria.

They were protesting against the poor attitude of the Federal Government towards the funding of the HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.

The group also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint one of the people living with HIV/AIDS to an office to be created by the government.

The office, SOWCHAN said, should be known as Office of the Special Adviser to the President on HIV/AIDS.

“That is the person who will be providing the President with true situation on HIV response,” the protesters said.

The conference, with the theme, ‘Hands-on for HIV Prevention,’ organised by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, and other local and international organisations, seeks to proffer further solutions to tackling the disease.

The members of SOWCHAN, who trooped out in scores, ran towards a podium where the Minister of State for Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, was billed to deliver a keynote address and almost disrupted his speech.

The spokesperson for the organisation, Mrs. Enya Attah, who has lived with the HIV/AIDS for 20 years and has three of her children negative to the disease, said the protest was “a wake-up call on the government to take full ownership of HIV funding.”

“There should be political will by both the federal and state governments to truthfully implement the many strategic plans and research recommendation developed by NACA. Nigeria is heavily dependent on external donor to about 75 per cent, while domestic financing is 25 percent. There is dwindling global funding for HIV in developing countries; the Nigerian government must bridge this funding gap”, Attah said.

The Director-General, Dr Sani Aliyu, said at the event the use of antiretroviral therapy had proven to prevent transmission of HIV virus by 96 per cent.

He said, “Following the 2011 landmark HTPN-O52 study, we now have very good evidence that ART is very effective in cutting HIV transmission by up to 96 per cent. In addition to this, pregnant women who could take antiretroviral treatment and adhere to treatment up till post-partum period are able to reduce the risk of transmission from as high as 30 per cent to less than one per cent.

“This conference is an opportunity for us to review our approach to HIV prevention and learn from all the good work that has been going on from within and outside the country.”

The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on AIDS, TB and Malaria, David Mbugadu, urged private institutions in the country to assist by pooling resources together to help HIV/AIDS patients in the country.

He said, “Dwindling revenues to the government coffers might impede government’s capacity to ensure that over three million HIV positive persons in the country are placed on drugs.”

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