AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), an NGO, says no fewer than 3.4 million people are living with HIV and AIDS in the country and only 700,000 persons have access to treatment. Dr Adetayo Towolawi, the Country’s Programme Manager, made this known in an interview with newsmen on Friday, in Abuja. He said the figure was worrisome as Nigeria’s population was about 170 million people with the second highest burden of HIV in Africa after South Africa. Towolawi said there were still a huge number of persons who do not have access to treatment further urging the Federal Government to scale up funding in HIV response. “Funding is still a huge challenge, there is a requirement by UNAIDS for Nigeria to contribute into the global funds of 13 billion dollar target.
“If our funding continues the way it is now, over 20 million people will die between now and 2030. “This tells us that about 20 million people are yet to have access to treatment,’’ he said. Towolawi said in eliminating HIV and AIDS by 2030, there was need for the government to fulfill its promise of funding, testing and treatment in order to put the virus under control. He advised the government not to be dependent on donor partners, adding that South African government funds 80 per cent of its domestic programmes.
The programme manager further said that South Africa presently runs the biggest Anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment programme in the world. “The Nigeria government needs to express the political will and step up domestic funding. “Today the world is getting complacent and we are beginning to see HIV and AIDS like any other diseases, if those tested positive are not placed on drugs, they will certainly die. “ Nigeria is more donor dependent, and the government needs to invest in HIV to achieve a wealthy economy through a healthy population,’’ he added. Towolawi expressed concern over the country’s low HIV testing uptake, saying that about 60 per cent of Nigerians do not still know their HIV status. He said for a country targeting 50 per cent testing coverage, a robust community testing drive was needed to bridge the yawning gap. According to him, a lot of progress has been made, however, achieving an AIDS-free generation was possible if more people knew their status and those found positive placed on treatment.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation is the largest non-profit HIV and AIDS organisation in the world providing health care to over 650,000 patients in 36 countries. AHF Nigeria has been operating in Nigeria since 2011 and present in six states across the country.