By Miriam Humbe
The United States of America (USA) on Monday held a reception/awards ceremony to honour heroes of the USA President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, (PEPFAR), in Nigeria.
Recipients included late Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, former global health leader and first Director General of the National Action Committee on Aids, NACA, Dr. John Idoko, former NACA Director General, Dr. Patrick Olabiyi Matemilola, retired colonel from the Nigerian Army, among others.
Speaking, US Ambassador, Mr. W. Stuart Symington, said that the contributions of his country’s government to dealing with the HIV scourge in Nigeria was a promise kept.
He said: “Since 2003, the U.S President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, (PEPFAR) has transformed lives through access to lifesaving HIV prevention and treatment services. Thanks to our partnership with the peoples of many nations, the american people have kept this commitment over the past 15 years.
“Today, our global commitment stands 80 billion US Dollars, combatting what has been described as the worst human scourge in history. In Nigeria, we have committed more than 5 billion U.S dollars to the fight against HIV/AIDS since the inception of PEPFAR”.
“We have achieved encouraging results, reaching millions of Nigerians all over the country, such as providing antiretroviral treatment for those infected with HIV, including pregnant women, to prevent HIV transmission to the next generation, conmunity outreach for HIV awareness, and providing care and support to children orphaned or made vulnerable by AIDS, as well as other vulnerable children. In addition, we have provided diagnostics and treatment of tuberculosis to many HIV positive individuals”.
Represented by Dr. Segilola Araoye, former Special Assistant to the Minister of Health and National Coordinator, National AIDS/STI Control Programme, Alh. A. M Abdullahi Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Health, said: “Nigeria has received tremendous support from United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) over the past fifteen years with over 800,000 Nigerians on life-saving anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs through funding from the people and Government of the United States. In addition, more than 1.6 million pregnant women have received HIV testing and counselling to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV; and more than 1.2 million orphans and vulnerable children received care and support.
“The country’s health system has also benefited from considerable system strengthening through PEPFAR funding including capacity building for countless health workers, community health workers and people living with HIV. In the last 15 years, PEPFAR has spent over $4bil|ion dollars to support prevention, treatment, care & support interventions.
He commended the work done by PEPFAR and appreciated them for recognising individuals who have made significant contributions to the epidemic control of HIV.
“As we all work towards the December 2020 goal of ensuring that 90% of people infected with HIV know their status, 90% of those who know their status are on anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and 90% of those on ART are virally suppressed, Nigeria remains committed to increasing domestic funding for HIV control at Federal and State levels to ensure sustainability of the response.
“Thirty years ago, the HIV epidemic appeared to be winning with considerable morbidity and mortality but today, the tide has turned to the point where countries have eliminated mother to child transmission of HIV and the world is aiming at ending AIDS by 2030! Nigeria is on track to achieving these goals and we look forward to continued support from PEPFAR and our other International and domestic Partners in order to achieve the targets of epidemic control of HIV.”