Nigeria to spend N1bn on ARV drugs for 20,000 HIV-positive citizens

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More Nigerians will access HIV antiretroviral drugs following a N1bn funding announcement by health minister

Nigerian government has announced plans to invest the sum of NGN1 billion on anti-retroviral drugs, this would serve 20,000 Nigerians that are living with the HIV virus who are eligible for the treatment.

According to the minister of health, Prof Isaac Adewole, with the investment, Nigeria will be able to increase the number of HIV-positive individuals in the country who have access to treatment. 

He also revealed that the action would further lower the risk of new infections with the virus in the country.

“The federal government of Nigeria will be investing N1 billion to fund purchase of ARV drugs for 20,000 eligible HIV positive Nigerians.The goal of this investment is to increase number of people living with HIV to treatment. By this action, we are gradually reducing the risk for new HIV infection in the country,” the minister said.

As of 2014 in Nigeria, the HIV prevalence rate among adults ages 15–49 was 3.17 percent. Nigeria has the second-largest number of people living with HIV.

In 2016, UNAIDS reported that Nigeria had 220,000 new HIV infections and 160,000 AIDS-related deaths. There were 3.2 million people living with HIV in 2016, among whom only 30% were accessing antiretroviral therapy. Among pregnant women living with HIV, 32% were accessing treatment or prophylaxis to prevent transmission of HIV to their children. An estimated 37,000 children were newly infected with HIV due to mother-to-child transmission. Among people living with HIV, approximately 24% had suppressed viral loads. 

The key populations most affected by HIV in Nigeria are Sex workers, with an HIV prevalence of 14.4%; Gay men and other men who have sex with men, with an HIV prevalence of 23%; and people who inject drugs, with an HIV prevalence of 3.4%.

Since 2010, new HIV infections have decreased by 21% and AIDS-related deaths have decreased by 6%. 

Nigeria’s HIV epidemic affects all population groups and geographic areas of the country. It is the second largest epidemic globally. Key populations are disproportionately impacted by the epidemic. 

Nigeria is a Fast-Track country and its response is guided by the National Strategic Framework 2017–2021, which aims at ending AIDS by achieving zero new infections, zero AIDS related deaths and zero discrimination. Elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV is a priority. Stigma and discrimination is a major challenge, especially towards key populations and people living with HIV.

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Paul is a university lecturer, medical researcher, extensively published author and freelance contributor. He holds a MSc degree in cell biology and genetics, and is a PhD candidate of the University of Ibadan.

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