From Gambo Ahmed Lafia
National response to HIV/AIDS has been adjudged to be below average with over 700,000 new infections recorded yearly, mostly with respect to mother-to-child transmission.
Recall that the federal government has increased its budget for awareness campaign, prevention, treatment and control of HIV and AIDS from a paltry N300 million to a whooping N7 billion over the past eight years.
This was a revelation from the chairman House Committee on HIV/Aids, Malaria, Tuberculosis and Leprosy in the House of Representatives, Hon. Dr. Haruna Kigbu, in an interview with journalists on the occasion of the World AIDS Day yesterday. He said a lot of effort should be exerted in order to fight the scourge.
His word: “Looking at the indices we have done well in fighting the disease, but on the other aspect new infections have continued to occur especially from mother to child, we aware that 700,000 new infections are recorded yearly which is the highest in the whole of Africa. It may be because of our population, we have 3 million to 4 million Nigerians who are infected”.
According to him “ although the federal government has done well in the areas of creating awareness, however, he decried that funding for other related programmes aimed at fighting the scourge is heavily dependent on foreign donors which shows that Nigeria, like many other African countries, do not take public health issues seriously.
He added “terms of funding we have not done well at all as a nation, it is 80 to 90 percent donor driven. Funds for antiretroviral, funds for capacity building, even funds for awareness campaigns come from the global funds which do not augur well for the fight against HIV/Aids”.
Dr. Kigbu enumerated that some other area posing a serious challenge to fight against the scourge is that of accountability, pointing out that most recipients of donor funds have not been accountable.
“People have spent donor funds on frivolities, workshops that don’t really matter. These are areas we think we can cut down spending”.
He noted “One of the high points is that most of the players in the national response to HIV/AIDS are faceless. When we call them to account in terms of registration by the federal ministry of health you don’t get to find them but somehow they keep tapping from the donor fund. What that means is that all that money is going into private pockets”.