As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to celebrate World AIDS Day today, MOTUNRAYO JOEL writes that efforts at achieving zero HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths are yet to yield fruits
World AIDS Day offers an opportunity for the global community to reflect about the ravaging effects of the AIDS scourge and on the lives lost to the deadly disease.
Between 2011 and 2015, World AIDS Day celebration will have as its theme “Getting to zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths.”
So far, have countries been able to achieve this? According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, accelerated progress has been reported in most parts of the world. But, there are worrying signs that some regions and countries are not on track to meet global targets and commitments on HIV, except Ukraine, which has reported a decline in the number of newly identified HIV cases, representing a new turning point for the country.
UNAIDS, in a statement, reported that new HIV infections have been on the rise in Eastern Europe and Central Asia by 13 per cent since 2006. The Middle East and North Africa have seen a doubling of new HIV infections since 2001. This, it indicated, was due to inadequate access to essential HIV services. Key populations, including men who have sex with men, people who use drugs, transgender people and sex workers, are often blocked from accessing life-saving services.
With two years left to the end of the theme, the situation does not seem to have changed much for Nigeria.
In June this year, the Director General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, Professor John Idoko, disclosed that Nigeria had the second largest population of people living with HIV/AIDS. He added that 3.4 million Nigerians were living with the disease. He noted that only 18 per cent of HIV positive women received prophylaxis treatment against mother-child transmission, and that only 18 per cent of the country’s 170 million people had gone for HIV test. He also disclosed that more than 40 per cent of HIV positive persons do not know their status.
Commenting on this year’s World AIDS Day, earlier this week, Idoko confirmed that there was a global decline in infections in both children and adults, but much more in children, from 2.2 million in 2008 to 1.9 million in adults compared to 24 per cent in children from 2009 to 2011.
He however said the HIV/AIDS pandemic had defied all kinds of scientific solutions, adding that this was the first time in the history of the world that an epidemic would defy all sorts of scientific solutions.
While commending the global efforts in fighting the disease, Idoko warned that there was no way it could end if people did not know their status. According to him, the $500m (over N72bn) which the US government has been donating to Nigeria for treatment, prevention, care and support every year since 2004/2005 has not been enough.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation stated that HIV/AIDS continues to be a major global public health issue, having claimed more than 36 million lives. In 2012, an estimated 35.3 million people were said to be living with HIV worldwide.