The Federal Government on Tuesday said it was set to implement new guidelines for HIV prevention, treatment and care to consolidate previous efforts in tackling the scourge.
The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, stated this at the opening of a two-day North-West Zonal Dissemination of 2016 National Guidelines for HIV prevention, Treatment and Care in Kaduna.
Represented by Segilola Araoye, his special adviser, Mr. Adewole said the guideline would ensure that those affected by HIV receive free health service at all levels in both public and private health institutions.
“From this day hence, everyone who tests positive to HIV is automatically eligible for treatment and this applies to everyone with equal emphasis, child, man and women, pregnant or not.
“From today onward we are duty bound to offer antiretroviral drugs as prevention to all persons who are at high risk of contracting HIV infection.
“From today forward all persons on treatment are entitled to at least one viral load test per year.
“From today hence, we will place greater emphasis on differentiated systems of care that are adjustable to the individual needs of the patient,’’ the minister said.
Mr. Adewole noted that the recommendations in the 2016 guidelines by current standard were audacious, unambiguous and un-apologetically pro-patient.
The minister, however, appealed to state governments and other stakeholders to efficiently implement the recommendations of the guidelines to the later in an effort to tackle the menace.
“For this to happen, we must change course a bit and find the courage to depart from the strategies that have not worked well.
“The guidelines could not have come at a less opportune moment, as they will serve as the necessary catalyst for attainment of the UNAIDS 90-90-90 initiative.
“And today, we hopefully bring to end the argument over deeply divisive option B and option B+ saga if our guidelines have been careful, to avoid the terms perhaps, it is time we stopped using them all together,” the minister said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quotes available statistics showing that no fewer than 3.4 million people are currently affected by the HIV and AIDS scourge.
However, the health minister said, with the 2016 guidelines things would be better, as there were already 860,000 patients on Anti-retro-viral treatment (ART) in some 1000 comprehensive HIV treatment centres.
According to him, that has led to the decline morbity and mortality associated with HIV and AIDS in the country.
“I simply cannot accept that our collective hard work against HIV and AIDS in Nigeria is wasted effort.
“I accept that things can be done better but even at that we have achieved tremendous success in our battle against HIV.
“And I am strengthened in this belief by the change in public perception from the fear, panic hysteria and horror of 2000 to the calm (Please be careful HIV is still out there) attitude that is the prevailing public sentiment about HIV and AIDS today,’’ he said.
Mr. Adewole said these guidelines would work because they were acceptable to the vast majority of stakeholders.
“They are acceptable because they are the product of huge and representative stakeholders consensus, with over 170 people contributed to the development of this document.’’
He commended the various stakeholders for contributing to the development of the document and advised non-governmental organisations supporting the health sector and HIV interventions to work closely with the ministry.
Adewole while thanking the states governments for their active role the fight against HIV and AIDS, appealed to People PLHIVs to come on board as stakeholders in the effort to eradicate the scourge.
NAN reports that officials from eight states of Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Kwara Zamfara and Jigawa are attending the two-day event.
The event, being organised by the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) and the Management Sciences for Health, is also being attended by UNAIDS, PEPFAR, NACA and other HIV control implementing partners. (NAN)