Official Launch of HIV Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) Surge Response in Imo State.
Ending AIDS pandemic by 2030.
Life Transformation for Africa Initiative (LIFT4Africa) and other relevant stakeholders and Civil Society Organisations on Monday, December 9, 2019, joined the governor of Imo State, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha CON KSC FNIFST to welcome a delegation of officials from the Embassy of the United States of America in Nigeria. Ms. Kathleen FitzGibbon, the Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S Embassy in Nigeria led the delegation to the State. In the delegation were representatives of three agencies – the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention; the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); and Caritas Nigeria.
Their mission was to acquaint the governor with their programme, HIV Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) Surge Response, which they have come to launch on Tuesday, December 10, 2019 in Owerri for the benefit of HIV patients in Imo State. According to Ms. FitzGibbon, the programme, which is a Joint United States Program on HIV/AIDS, has the set goal of ending the AIDS pandemic by 2030. To that effect, the Program has designed what they called the 90-90-90 Target. Explaining the 90-90-90 Target she said that is designed: “To assist countries in achieving this goal, the 90-90-90 target was established such that by 2020, 90% of people living with HIV will know their status, 90% of people living with HIV will receive anti retroviral therapy (ART), and 90% of people living with HIV on anti retroviral therapy will have viral suppression”.
The State visit was to advance the war against the dreaded HIV/AIDS disease. Whatever could be done to ameliorate the conditions of the sufferers, while the search for the cure continues, should be done.
The traditional head representing the traditional institutions in the State pointed out that the major cause of stigmatisation is embedded in the local name/translation of the virus — HIV/AIDS which is “Oria Obiri na aja Ocha” (which translates “Those Condemned to Die”). He called for a new narrative and a change in the name by Igbo scholars from one which condemns to another which brings hope. He therefore recommended “Oria Ochendu”. (“Those living in Hope”). He said that this would aid mitigate the stigmatisation of HIV/AIDS. He also stated that those a the primary healthcare centers in rural areas should be able to protect the privacy of their patients to encourage more persons turn up for regular screening.
The governor and his government promised to upgrade the healthcare to the people of Imo State, while also pledge his commitment to partner with foreign countries and agencies, and civil society organisations within the State, so as to deliver quality healthcare services within the State.
The Governor stated that “it is with every sense of duty that we are gathered today to address a matter that is of a very special concern to us as a State. We are here to launch another phase of the fight against the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the State. Indeed, according to John Locke, the English Political Philosopher, “The welfare of the people, is the supreme law.” This principle, somehow is the guiding light of the “Rebuild Imo Agenda” of the present Imo State government. We are disheartened by the statistical report on the prevalence of HIV in the state. As a responsible government, we are challenged to doing something about it.
We are aware, that on the 14th of March, this year, President Muhammadu Buhari released the report of the recently concluded National AIDS Indicator Impact Survey (NAIIS 2018). According to the report, HIV prevalence in Nigeria reduced from a previous 3.0 percent to 1.4, going by Antenatal Sero-prevalence Surveys conducted in the 36 states and the FCT in 2014. Sadly, Imo State was among the seven priority states which contributed to over 60 percent of the burden of HIV in Nigeria. Indeed, HIV prevalence in Imo State, even though it showed a significant reduction from the 2014 average of 3.0 percent, the State’s 1.8 percent prevalence rate was far above the national average of 1.4 percent. This is not acceptable.
Sequel to this report, we quickly mobilized resources and immediately charged the Ministry of Health and engaged the support of our partner agencies to address this trend. The immediate result is that the State has already been able to find and place on treatment about 16,000 PLHIVs. Certainly we are committed to achieving the USAIDS target of 90:90:90 which aims at controlling the epidemic by September 2020. It involves a concerted push for epidemic control, tagged HIV ART Surge. This is a battle we are committed to fight and one, we are prepared to win. Said the Governor.
Hence the Imo State Government makes the following commitments;
i. We are committed to finding the yet be identified 38,000 Persons Living with HIV and to put same on life-saving Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) until Undetectable viral level equals Un-transmissible (U = U). We also pledge to give due attention to the recommendations of the ART Surge Consortium that will assist in finding the over 38,000 persons.
ii. Consequently, I mandate all MDAs and institutions – including the Universities and polytechnics – to ensure the sensitization of their staff, students and wards on the need to know their HIV status. Being mindful of the metropolitan nature of our Universities, I urge them to serve as gatekeepers in this health service efforts by screening all year-one students using the risk stratification checklist and appropriate referral.
iii. We hereby, also declare zero tolerance to all forms of stigma and discrimination of persons living with HIV. Similarly, the State will support the procurement of all the necessary kits and consumables as provisions have already been made in the 2020 Budget.
iv. I would like to underscore the key role and partnership of the Local Government Councils in the funding of processes required for the identification and placing on treatment of the target persons. Indeed, all the 38,000 persons we are seeking to reach, in the end, are spread across the Local Government Areas of the State. So, the Local Governments must join the efforts.
v. Above all, Government hereby abolishes all user fees and charges of any kind for HIV services. Subsequently, the State government, in partnership with the Local Government Councils, shall provide funds for direct payment to all facilities recognized for providing HIV services in the state. Any health worker in the recognized facilities found to charge fees for HIV services would be penalised.
vi. Furthermore, we hereby mandate as well as appeal to all pregnant women to attend ante-natal clinics and get an HIV test to know their status. In the same vein, all HIV positive pregnant women shall, henceforth, be required to deliver in health facilities. This is to ensure the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and that no child in Imo state, henceforth would be born with HIV.
vii. At this juncture, I urge the consortium to develop the modalities and strategies for the implementation of these commitments. In furtherance of this, we invite all public spirited individuals, philanthropists and organisations at home and in the diaspora, to support and partner with the State Government in this HIV/AIDS control respons.
Finally, on behalf of the people and government of Imo State, we convey our sincere gratitude to the USAID, the US Embassy, the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC), Caritas and other great associates in this grand partnership. Rest assured that we shall do everything within our powers to achieve the set target in this all-important campaign.