Port Harcourt, Dec. 5, 2013 (NAN) Maximillary Medical Care Centre, a health advocacy group, on Thursday blamed high mortality rate amongst people living with HIV and AIDS in Rivers on the lack of viral load machine in the state.
Dr Constance Pepple, the group’s President, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Port Harcourt that the state lacked a single HIV and AIDS viral load machine.
She said that the shortage of CD4 testing kit and lack of awareness was also partly responsible for the spread of the virus in the state.
Pepple said that HIV and AIDS patients travelled to other states to check their viral load levels due to the absence of the machine in the state.
“Recently, Rivers has witnessed an increase in HIV-related deaths which is capable of jeopardising the Millennium Development Goal (MDG), which targets reasonable reduction of HIV and AIDS cases by 2015.
“The lack of HIVand AIDS viral load machine in the state might cause an astronomical increase in HIV-related deaths, which will have a negative effect on the nation’s seriousness in tackling the scourge.
“We send HIV patients to states like Edo, among others, to conduct their viral load test, and in the process, some of the patients die due to delay in medication.
“If we have a viral load machine in the state, it will help prolong the life of the patients, because, once they know their viral load, they will know if their drugs is working or not working.
“Also, most CD4 machines available in the state are provided by private partners, and these partners might leave soon.
“The state government should ensure that viral load testing becomes the basic standard of care which will in turn reduce financial burden on patients.”
Pepple also said the state lacked an anti-stigma and discrimination law, adding that the enactment of the law would end abuses of the human rights of persons living with the virus in the state.
She said that an anti-stigma and discrimination law, when enacted by the state Assembly, would protect and promote the rights of people living with the virus.
Pepple called on the state government to provide other HIV and AIDS machines and kit to ensure proper treatment of HIV patients in the state.
In his response, the HIV and AIDS Programme Manager of the Ministry of Health, Dr Golden Owhonda, said that government had reduced the prevalence of the disease from 7.3 per cent to 6.0.
He said the state government planned to build a molecular lab at the Braithwaite Memorial Hospital which would be equipped with a viral load assessment and DNA ECR machines, among others.
Owhonda said the state had also procured and distributed thousands of anti retroviral drugs to about 200 medical centres across the state to boost treatment.
“Our prevalence as at the last Anti-Natal Care Prevalence (ANC) survey conducted in 2010 was 6.0 per cent which fell from 7.3 per cent in previous surveys.
“The state government has increased access to medical services for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission.
“We have scaled up access from about 15 medical sites to more than 200 which include private and general hospitals, and primary health centres.
“There is hardly any of the states that patients cannot access prevention of mother-to-child service sites between a 10km radius.”
Owhonda said that the state government was committed to reducing HIV and AIDS prevalence and mortality rate to the lowest possible digit.
He assured that the anti-stigma and discrimination bill before the National Assembly would soon be passed into law.