EXCLUSIVE: President Buhari insensitive to suffering of persons living with HIV-NEPWHAN Secretary 

National Secretary, NEPWHAN, Abdulkadir Ibrahim

……President reneged on promise to pay counterpart funding  

By Kemi Yesufu

Abdulkadir Ibrahim is the National Secretary of the Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN). According to him, President Muhammadu Buhari has shown little interest in the plight of Nigerians living the virus. Ibrahim who spoke to Frontline News Online on the sidelines of the 4th National Council on AIDS meeting held in Abuja recently, also expressed disappointment that the President has reneged on the promise he made at the United Nations General Assembly, that Nigeria will pay up its counterpart funding.

President Muhammadu Buhari

According to the NEPWHAN Scribe,  the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) is also affected by Federal Government’s failure to improve funding for the national response to HIV/AIDS.

“The support from the Federal Government is practically non-existent. Let me be honest with you, the current administration has not be forthcoming. We have challenges of funding. Even the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) has struggled with funding.

“Sometimes, they go for three to four months without having funds released to the agency to carry out is functions. And we, the persons living with HIV rely on government. We can’t run to donors. They have their areas of focus. Besides, we know that the inflow of funds to Nigeria is declining by the day. We know the Nigerian government is funding treatment in Taraba and Abia, but we want more from them” he said.

Ibrahim went on to add that: “The issue of user fee is critical because you can’t be asking a poor woman coming from a far village to the treatment facility, to pay for user fee. Here is somebody, who is thinking of what she would eat. You cannot take ARVs on empty stomach. Asking a person still thinking of what to eat to pay user fee isn’t fair. It is time for the Nigerian government to pick what or the aspects of treatment it can begin to finance. For example, Nigeria can choose to take care issues of laboratory use, while the partners provide ARVs.

“But as it is, even the partners cry out that the Nigerian government is not paying its counterpart funding. I know many states will not be able to pay counterpart funding. I am not sure the president has paid the counterpart funding as promised when he attended the United Nation General Assembly. So my recommendation is that the Federal Government meets with donors, ask them how they will be supporting Nigeria”.

Read full interview bellow:

 

There are poor statistics on pediatric AIDS, even as there are reports that persons receiving Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) now have to pay for related services.  But what  would you say are the major challenges being faced by persons living with HIV in Nigeria?

Let me start with children born with HIV, I don’t think that is an issue today. We have a well structured Prevention of Mother To Child (PMTCT) programme and we have option B-Plus. It’s a good strategy. I can tell you that most of our children are born HIV negative. But again, in some cases where you have persons defaulting or lacking access to facilities that provide PMTCT, you could have babies born with HIV. But overall, for preventing the transmission from mothers to babies, Nigeria has improved on this greatly, I am a good example. My wife had a baby boy and he is HIV negative. He is three years old now.

So what are the problems Persons Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) have to deal with in 2018?

The challenges we have are majorly in area of care and support. Government is more concerned about getting more people on treatment..yes putting people on treatment is the way to go. But there is the component of  care and support, which is stakeholders haven’t been looking at critically. Anything that has to do with assisting people like Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC) and women widowed by AIDS, government and stakeholders aren’t interested in it.

Again, the support from the Federal Government is practically non-existent. Let me be honest with you, the current administration has not be forthcoming. We have challenges of funding. Even the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) has struggled with funding. Sometimes, they go for three to four months without having funds released to the agency to carry out is functions. And we, PLWHAs rely on government . We can’t run to donors. They have their areas of focus. Besides, we know that the inflow of funds to Nigeria is declining by the day. We know the Nigerian government is funding treatment in Taraba and Abia, but we want more from them. We want to see how government at the state level, in fact at all levels can take ownership of the HIV/AIDS response. Yes, you mentioned the issue of user fee and this is critical because you can’t be asking a poor woman coming from a far village to the treatment facility, to pay for user fee. Here is somebody, who is thinking of what she would eat. You cannot take ARVs on empty stomach. Asking a person still thinking of what to eat to pay user fee isn’t fair. It is time for the Nigerian government to pick what or the aspects of treatment it can begin to finance. For example, Nigeria can choose to take care issues of laboratory use, while the partners provide ARVs. But as it is even the partners cry out that the Nigerian government is not even paying its counterpart funding. I know many states will not be able to pay counterpart funding. I am not sure the president has paid the counterpart funding as promised when he attended the United Nation General Assembly. So my recommendation is that the Federal Government meets with donors, ask them how they will be supporting Nigeria. And government will now tell them how we want to go about interventions as a country.  As I speak with you, Nigeria does not have data on how many people are on treatment, we don’t have a Monitoring and Evaluation data on kids born with HIV. There are lot of reports, but all are assumptions and we as a country don’t have data that we developed. You go to this agency, they have their own data on HIV. Then you go to another partner and they have their own data. We as country have to change the situation.

 

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