UNAIDS Country Director for Nigeria, Dr Erasmus Morah, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to increase the funds allocated to HIV treatment in the 2018 budget from N1.5 billion to the required N7.5 billion.
This, Morah said is important to making the commitment made by the president at the UN High-Level Meeting to become a reality and translate to saving lives while upholding the dignity of people living with HIV in the country.
Morah, who stated this at the launch of Nigeria AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS), by President Muhammadu Buhari, recently in Abuja, said the extra budget would also help to give a glimmer of hope to the development partners, the Americans in particular, that they would not have to forever be the primary financier for treating Nigerians who are living with HIV.
Recall that Nigeria made a commitment during the UN event on ending AIDS, held in New York last year, to maintain the 60,000 people living with HIV on treatment and put an additional 50,000 on treatment.
Morah said the decision marked the first major step to ensure that Nigeria owns and sustain its national HIV response going forward. He however expressed concern that the requisite financial resources to make it a reality are not matching the decision.
“Nigeria needs to take responsibility for treating its own citizens living with HIV. Right now, out of more than one million Nigerian on treatment for HIV, the Nigerian government is only responsible for about 5%
“Only one in three Nigerians in need is receiving treatment. By treating Nigerians living with HIV, you are also treating the Nigerian economy. HIV treatment is not an expenditure; it is an investment in life expectancy, workplace productivity and GDP.”
Speaking further, he said “this Nigeria AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS) that is about to be launched today is unprecedented in magnitude anywhere in the world.
“The survey will be pivotal in telling us how many Nigerians are living with HIV and in what states or geographical locations. Ultimately, the Survey will allow government policy makers and programmers and their partners to focus its limited financial, human and other resources on those populations and locations that are most at risk of HIV.”