By Mustapha Yauri
Abuja – The establishment of national AIDS Fund and integrating HIV/AIDS treatment into the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) are viable tools of addressing donor fatigue in Nigeria.
Dr Bilali Camara, Country Director, Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Nigeria, made the statement on Sunday in Abuja in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
He said the present financing mechanism with donor partners contributing more than 70 per cent of the national funding for HIV/AIDS response is not sustainable.
He said that if established the fund should be managed independently.
He said that UNAIDS is working with the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) on the project.
Camara said that if established, the fund would be utilised in buying commodities such as HIV test kits and anti-retro viral drugs.
He added that the fund would also ensure that HIV drugs and other key commodities are always available.
He said that managers of the fund would leverage on the experiences of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF that have better coordination, mechanism and system of distributing drugs.
The country director said the agency and NACA are collaborating to ensure that NHIS absolves the cost of AIDS treatment in Nigeria.
He said that 1, 066, 383 people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria were enrolled on treatment by March 2017
He said that Nigeria was able to achieve the progress because it adopted the` test and treat policy.’
According to him, the policy ensured that people who tested positive are enrolled on treatment regardless of their ‘CD4 count.’
CD4 Count Test is a laboratory test that shows how well the immune is working and the strongest predictor of HIV progression.
Camara said that data at the disposal of the UN agency indicated that by the end of 2015, no fewer than 800,000 people living with HIV/AIDS were on anti -retroviral treatment.
“After adopting the policy in 2016, the number of people enrolled on treatment increased; in the first quarter of the year, 82, 000 people were enrolled on treatment.”
He said that between now and the end of 2017, 328,000 people living with HIV/ AIDS were expected to be enrolled on treatment.
He said if similar trend continues, it means that by the end of 2018, 1,500,000 Nigerians would be on treatment which is a right direction towards ending HIV/ AIDS in the country.
“When I assumed office as the UNAIDS country director in March 2013, the number of people on treatment for HIV/AIDS were below 500, 000.
“I am leaving Nigeria an accomplished man because as of this; in June, we have more than one million people on treatment,’’ he said.
The UNAIDS Country Director said the achievement was the result of two and half years advocacy for policy changes to fast-track ending HIV and AIDS in Nigeria.