NACA Boss Laments Lack of Effective Remedy for HIV Infection

Prof. John Idoko, Director General, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), said on Monday in Abuja that HIV infection was the only global scourge that had defied all sorts of technological interventions for its cure.

Idoko said this while briefing newsmen for the 2013 World AIDS Day with theme “Getting to zero: zero new HIV infections, Zero discrimination, Zero AIDS-related deaths”.

“This is the first time in the history of the world that we have an epidemic that has defied all sorts of technologies in terms of trying to bring it to an end; there is a lot of work going on to see how we can end this epidemic.

“But two decades or more, it is still being with us, so we need to remember the 60 million people who have died as a result of the disease and even in our country we have lost about three million people, so it is a major issue for us but in doing that we also want to look at where we are and where we are going so that we can be better positioned to continue the fight’’.

He said the day would enable the country to take stock of the virus, remember those that lost their lives to the disease and plan for the year 2014.

Idoko said globally, there had been a decline in HIV infection in both children and adults adding that almost 10 million people are on antiretroviral treatment in low and middle income countries.

He said the country has an Ante Natal Clinic (ANC) prevalence of 4.1 per cent (ANC survey, 2010) and population prevalence of 3.4 per cent (National HIV/AIDS & Reproductive Health Survey, 2012).

Idoko said in Nigeria, 3.5 million people live with HIV out of which 1.5 million were in need of treatment adding that the number would go up with the adoption of the new WHO guidelines of ART.

He said the new WHO guideline encouraged all countries to initiate treatment in adults living with HIV when their CD4 cell count falls to 500 cells/mm3 or less, when their immune systems are still strong.

The previous WHO recommendation, set in 2010, was to offer treatment at 350 CD4 cells/mm3 or less.

According to him, the current National HIV/AIDS & Reproductive Health Survey data indicated reduction of HIV prevalence in many of the 12+1 states.

Idoko said in 2014, the agency would double the number of people on drugs from 600,000 to 1.2 million and might be more when it adopts the new WHO ART guidelines.

He said the country would test 40 million people annually and provide Prevention from Mother to Child treatment for 224,000 pregnant women who are HIV positive.

Also speaking, Mr Masauso Nzima, Senior Strategic Information Adviser, UNAIDS said with the President’s Comprehensive Response Plan in HIV, the country would save 266 billion naira.

Nzima said the agency had planned to invest the sum of N260 billion in the areas of HIV testing, PMTCT, treatment and focusing on key population.

“If these investments are strategically targeted to these interventions, Nigeria is bound to save up to as much as N266 billion in treatment alone, so if it was business as usual, they did not do anything, we are going to face that must in treatment cost.

“ If this plan is properly implemented they can save as many as 100,000 lives but we will also prevent 210,000 new infections.

“Basically what we are saying is that we want to be smarter in terms of investment that NACA is going to put towards HIV’’.

The World AIDS Day is celebrated every December 1.

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