DETERMINED to bridge the prevailing and imminent funding gaps in Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) control in Nigeria and lack of subtype specific vaccine plan, the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) and partners have convened a validation meeting and are working on an operational plan that would facilitate the implementation of the recently launched National HIV Vaccine Plan.
The validation meeting was to fashion out the way forward to ensuring that the source of funding for HIV response begins to come from Nigerian government at all levels, private sector and other possible sources.
The Director General of NACA, Prof. John Idoko, said the meeting was a follow-up to previous meetings held and that NACA has contracted some consultants expected to map the point of resources and come up with possible ways the country can begin to fund her own HIV response.
He said there are many issues the country is facing in the fight against HIV/AIDS, ranging from the high rate of new infection, decentralisation of services directed towards the rural areas, intensifying prevention efforts, treatment and many more.
Idoko said that about three million Nigerians are currently living with HIV/AIDS and out of this number, 1.5 million of them require Anti Retroviral (ARV) treatment, but just about 500,000 of this number is currently receiving ARV, with the bulk of this treatment coming from donor agencies.
The NACA boss emphasised on urgency, to bring to bear a funding channel that can guarantee a sustainable HIV response. He then called on government at all levels and the private sector to increase funding for HIV/AIDS in the country.
Various speakers took turns to speak on the need for in-country funding. The Project Manager of the Cross River State Agency for the control of AIDS, Dr. Irene Anyiom, corroborated the DG NACA’s remarks when she said that problem of men sleeping with men in Cross River State is becoming very worrisome and there is need to target this group which requires funding. “The only way we can do this effectively is create an avenue to generate sustainable funding for HIV response in Nigeria,” she said.
The Managing Director of Society for Family Health (SFH), Mr. Bright Ikweremadu, said that the need for funding of HIV response in-country cannot be over emphasised. He said that there is also a need for purposeful spending by all HIV/AIDS fund managers.
The Project Director of Enhancing Nigeria Response (ENR) Dr. Omobodo Oyinbo, said the need to fund HIV/AIDS in-country is paramount and we also need to ensure that Nigerians get value for the money they will be contributing towards this laudable quest. The project Director of ENR said that NACA must provide credible leadership and it is through this that in-country funding can be sustained.
Director of Nigeria Business Coalition against HIV/AIDS (NIBUCA), Dr. Olusina Olulana, and the Director of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mr Segun Ajayi, commended the efforts of NACA and all the stakeholders for coming together to find a lasting solution to the funding problem of Nigeria HIV national response. They promised to cooperate with all the stakeholders to get a leeway that will result to a sustainable HIV funding in Nigeria.
On the new vaccine plan, Idoko said that the plan would build and enhance HIV vaccine research capacity in Nigeria, identify opportunities for and enable the formation of collaborative relationships both within Nigeria and among international partners, and create immeasurable public health impact and benefit for Nigeria’s most vulnerable populations.
He stressed that the operational plan would ensure that the plan is properly implemented and that it doesn’t suffer some of the issues that affected the first attempt in 2001.
He told The Guardian: “This is a long term plan. We will get the NPT TWG (New Prevention Technologies Technical Working Group) a diverse group of stakeholders and experts in HIV prevention, care and treatment, to develop operational plans from the National HIV Vaccine Plan. At the point of developing the operational plan, there will be plans to look at the various areas for funding including the government of Nigeria, development partners, research foundations and the private sector.”
Stakeholders say the plan presents an unprecedented opportunity to achieve impact by putting the National HIV Vaccine Plan into action. It presents 12 achievable recommendations to strengthen technical and scientific infrastructure and enhance the capacity to regulate and execute vaccine trials over the next five years.
Director of Resource Mobilisation in NACA, Dr. Emmanuel Alhassan, said there is gap in treatment, HIV Counselling and Testing, Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS (PMTCT) and prevention of new infections. “Considering the economic crises around the world, this has affected the funding from donor agencies, so it is important Nigeria as country establish a funding mechanism that will ensure all the required funding for her HIV intervention is made available and is sustained,” he said.
Alhassan said Nigeria signed a partnership agreement with United States (US) which requires that Nigeria provide 50 per cent of the funding required for her HIV response by the year 2015.
He further explained: “It is among these reasons that NACA commissioned some consultants after series of meeting with stakeholders to provide a strategic frame work to a sustainable HIV funding for Nigeria.
“The findings is expected to be shared at this meeting and ratified by all stakeholders, which is expected to lead us to the next step in the quest for an in- country funding and sustainable HIV/AIDS response in Nigeria.”
The consultants then went ahead to present the findings of their work, among what was presented is the alternative sources of funding identified in conjunction with stakeholders includes: public sector mainstreaming; decentralisation of contributions from State and Local Government budgets; private sector contributions; airline levy; mobile phone levy; health insurance; and improving efficiencies in HIV/AIDS programmes to reduce resource needs.
The critical area of impact of changes in funding sources on HIV and AIDS service delivery infrastructure was also presented and they include: coordination and resource allocation; health financing; human resources for health; HIV and AIDS drugs; community-based organisations; and HIV/AIDS Trust Fund.
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