People living with HIV/AIDS, yesterday laid siege at the entrance of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) Abuja, to protest what they described as their poor condition of living, which they said, has increased their mortality rate to 20,000 every month. Numbering over 100, the HIV positive persons barricaded the entrance, stopping staff from entering the headquarters of the NACA as early as 6 am, yesterday.
The protesters who carried palm fronds and placards, with some inscriptions, which read, “How many more people will die of AIDS before government gives attention?” vowed to continue daily barricade of the agency for at least 25 days. The HIV positive persons under the aegis of the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), which represents more than three million people living with the virus, stood in the sun and under sheds on NACA premises for most of yesterday.
However, the officials of the NACA called the barricade a “deliberate attempt to jeopardise” its activities. Speaking during the protest, the public relations officer of NEPWHAN, Samaila Garba, said the protest comes on the heels of concerns that international agencies have started reducing funding for HIV services in Nigeria. He said, “If they withdraw funding and we don’t get funding for our treatment, we are going to die,” adding that the association was recording a high number of people dying daily from AIDS related complications due to lack of access to antiretroviral drugs.
Garba added that some providers have stopped registering new HIV positive persons for care, while previous positive persons are having to pay for services out of their pockets. According to him, “From October 1, HIV patients began paying N12,000 a year for laboratory tests at an APIN-supported HIV clinic at University College Hospital, Ibadan. “This November, another APIN site where some 23,000 people seek treatment, began charging patients N5,000 for registration, N2,000 for consultation, N8,900 for laboratory evaluation, N2,900 for lab followup, and N1,000 to pick up drugs
“The services have been free since 2006 when the administration of former president Olusegun Obasanjo rolled out sponsored antiretroviral treatment for 250,000 people living with HIV.” “Since then countries with lesser HIV burden than Nigeria–Kenya, Zambia, Togo, South Africa–have at least doubled funding for HIV services.” “Donor agencies that have famously funded HIV services in parts of the country, including the US government, Global Fund and UNAIDS, have variously said they expect Nigeria to up domestic funding to provide treatment and services for people living with HIV.” “Only 30% of all eligible for treatment have access to antiretroviral drugs–all others are not registered for any sort of treatment.”