Nigeria Moving Towards Epidemic Control Of HIV, National Coordinator
Written by Teniola Akerele on June 27, 2023
The National Coordinator of National AIDS and STDs Control Programme (NASCP) Dr Adebobola Bashorun, says by 2030, Nigeria should be moving towards epidemic control of HIV.
He said this at the end of the pilot activity dissemination of the Strengthening HIV Self-testing in the Private Sector (SHIPS) project of the Society for Family Health, a Non-Governmental Organisationon Tuesday in Abuja.
According to Bashorun, Nigeria has in the past 30 years recorded valuable progress in the reduction of HIV prevalence.
He said: “Basically from 2010 until date, the government with the help of partners has done a lot on prevention and treatment.
“We have been able to escalate our information. So I think these things have worked. So by 2030, we should be moving towards a form of epidemic control.
“Epidemic control does not mean there is no disease, but it means your system and everything is controlling the disease to a level that you can manage and sustain the progress you have made over the years,“he said.”
He said that one of the strategies employed included the increase in treatment coverage. Bashorun also said that, from a scientific perspective, the more people were treated, the more they could not infect others.
“So if somebody is positive now and the person is on treatment, the probability that the person will infect you is very low because the viral load that causes the virus would have been crushed.”
About the self-testing kit, he said that the emphasis is on testing, as knowing one’s status is the first step to getting care.
According to him, the programme gives the ability to test oneself without having to go to a facility.
Bashorun said that its availability over-the-counter, like pregnancy test kits, would ensure that people knew their status early enough. The Managing Director, SFH, Dr Omokhudu Idogho said that promoting HIV self-testing alongside other crucial elements was important.
He was represented by Mr Kenechukwu Eruchalu, Deputy Managing Director, Operations and Service Delivery of SFH.
Idogho said that it would create a consumer centric ecosystem and increase access and uptake of HIV self-testing.
“I am proud to report that we have made significant strides in reaching our target populations, specifically sexually active males and females ranging between the ages of 18 to 34, as well as men aged 35 and above.
“Our implementation sites in Lagos and Abuja have witnessed remarkable progress. Through community mobilisation efforts, we have successfully reached over 58,000 individuals creating awareness and driving engagement.
“Additionally, our community activation initiatives have impacted the lives of over 50,000 individuals.
“Furthermore, we have recovered impressive sales of more than almost 14,000 HIV self-testing kits through physical and online pharmacies, as well as e-commerce, he said.
He said that stakeholders should leverage on their collective expertise and innovative approaches by working together to overcome challenges, optimise investments and ensure the successful scaling up of their intervention.
The SHIPS Project Lead for Nigeria, Mr DennisAizobu, said that the pilot stage of the project, carried out in Lagos and Abuja, would be scaled up to 13 in other states.
According to him, with the ambitious goal of achieving the UNAIDS 95:95:95 target by 2030, the project seeks to identify crucial obstacles hindering the scale-up of private-sector HIVST and develop innovative models to overcome them. Aizobu said:
“We think that using the private sector would help to reach the last set of people that need to be reached because it provides convenience, accessibility and sustainability.
“These are not kits that the government will be able to provide for everybody as required but we can get it done through the private sector.
“The private sector has a way of driving down prices and also has a capacity to scale, which means the kits can be everywhere within the country.
“It can be in a pharmacy, a patent vendor shop, so putting it in the private sector channels is what will give us the results we want.”
He said that over the years, Nigeria had been using several other channels of technologies or means, like the conventional HIV testing, community testing to drive down the prevalence of the disease.
Aizobu said that, for people who want confidentiality and convenience, those methods might not work for them which was what informed the idea of the self-testing kits.