2.9m HIV positive Nigerians risk death without antiretroviral drugs –Experts

A whooping 2.9 million people living with HIV/AIDS out of 3.4 million Nigerians diagnosed last year are at risk of death from HIV related illnesses following lack of treatment needed to suppress the infection.

Affected persons are mostly those who are currently living in hiding, who are also infecting new people causing a surge of the disease.

HIV experts revealed this at a scientific symposium to mark this year’s World AIDS Day, organized by the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, NIMR, in collaboration with Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, Lagos branch.

In her presentation, representative of the Population Council Abuja, Dr. Sylvia Adebajo, noted that only 500,000 people are currently on treatment, while the 2.9 million, largely men, serve as reservoir for the spread of HIV.

“Men do not go to hospital as much as women, so they are the most difficult to reach. Those at higher risks include; women, homosexuals, men who engage with drugs and those who have sex with female sex workers.”

L-r Dr Olalekan Aregbesola (NMA) Dr. Dumebi Owa (NMA) Dr. FIsher LASACA Rep. Dr. Olusegun Ogboye, Project Manager, LASACA, Mrs. Amina Ali, Chair, NEHHWAN, Lagos State, Prof. Oni Idigbe (NIMR), Dr. Sylvia Adebayo, Population Council, Abuja and Prof. Sulaimon Akanmu, Consultant Haematologist, LUTH at a seminar on World Aids Day 2015, recently.
Adebajo noted that the attitude of testing people and letting them go without follow up needs to be stopped, and more people particularly men need to be reached with treatment.

Director-General of NIMR, Prof Innocent Ujah, regretted that despite availability of effective tools for diagnosis and clinical management, the AIDS epidemic still claims estimated two million lives each year, of which about 270, 000 are children.

He lamented: “Despite the fact that effective tools have been available for the diagnosis and clinical management, the epidemic still claims an estimated two million lives each year, of which about 270,000 are children.”

He further observed that new cases of the infection are still occurring in some parts of the world leading to intensified global efforts to stem the epidemic.

According to him, this development informed the choice of the multi-year theme of the World AIDS Day since 2012 which has been, “Getting to Zero with the three main sub-themes of Zero new infections, Zero deaths from AlDS-related illnesses and Zero discrimination.”

Ujah who lauded the UNAIDS 90-90-90 initiative said it was designed to have 90 percent of all people diagnosed with HIV infection receive sustained ARV therapy and 90% of all people receiving ARV will have viral suppression.

However, corroborating with the United Nations Agency on AIDS, the DG said that it will be impossible to end the epidemic without bringing HIV treatment to all those who need it.

He said that people with the virus will have to be diagnosed before they are provided treatment. When on treatment, there should be adequate viral suppression achieved in those treated, he added.

His words: “In 2014, the UN AIDS came up with the Global 90-90-90 initiative. This is an ambitious treatment target to help end the AIDS epidemic. Whereas previous AIDS targets sought to achieve incremental progress in the response, the post-2015 era is nothing less than the end of the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

“However, it is the view of the UNAIDS that it will be impossible to end the epidemic without bringing HIV treatment to all who need it. To provide treatment, people with the virus will have to be diagnosed. When on treatment, there should be adequate viral suppression achieved in those treated.

“The multi – year theme since 2012 has been “getting to zero with the three main sub-themes of zero new infections, zero deaths from AIDs – related illnesses and zero discrimination.

“With 90 percent of those on treatment having viral suppression, there will be a drastic break of transmission of new infection and end the HIV/AIDS pandemic by 2030,” he said.

He said NIMR conducted an outreach in Alimosho Local Government area of Lagos state to increase awareness on HIV/AIDS as well as enhance HIV counselling and testing.

Also in her presentation on how to prevent new infection, Dr. Oladipo Fisher, from Lagos State AIDS Control Agency, LASACA, said early initiation of HIV positive people into antiretroviral drugs will decrease rate of new infections as well as reduce HIV-related illnesses and deaths.

Similarly, Consultant Haematologist, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Prof. Sulaimon Akanmu, noted that people who test positive to HIV can possibly eliminate the virus if they commence treatment immediately they are diagnosed. “This will help bring their viral load to an undetectable level where they will likely not infect other people, and this is in line with the World Health Organization, WHO’s new treatment guideline for HIV/AIDS.”

This story was published in Newswatch Times on December 5, 2015.


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