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NACA, National Assembly Partner on Sustainability of HIV Response

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The National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), has partnered with the USAIDS, UNAIDS and Jhpiego for a 2-day retreat alongside the National Assembly House Committee on AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (ATM) under the theme “Leadership for sustainability of the HIV response: The role of the Legislative”.

In her opening speech, the Director General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, Dr Temitope Ilori assured of the agency’s determination in providing leadership to driving an accelerated decline in new HIV infections in the country.

She advocated for an integrated approach at tackling these diseases, one that will foster synergy and yield maximum health benefit.

“We are here today to continue in our efforts at targeting the eradication of HIV/AIDS by year 2030.

We are re-energised at fostering a commitment to the issues of HIV/AIDS with the legislators here present and help facilitate an efficient and sustainable response in Nigeria”, she stated.

The Country Director of UNAIDS, Dr Leopoid Zeken urged the leadership of the house to scale up efforts and help in terms of legislation for resource allocation.

He called for an increased awareness and improved accountability of resources in better management of the resources available to solving the major issues plaguing us.

He believes that the success achieved in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Nigeria will have an overbearing effect on the African continents’ success.

While also addressing the participants at the retreat, a seasoned Public Health Specialist and Country Director, Jhpiego, Oniyire Adetiloye spoke on the critical nature of the committee and believes if these three diseases are tackled heads on, it will portend a great success for the country.

He called for an integrated approach that will ensure the patients receive the best solutions to these health issues.

According to him, Jhpiego has been in the forefront of tackling HIV/AIDS and have reached millions of Nigerian women, men and children since 1978.

He noted that HIV testing services have been provided to more than 2.6 million people while more than 74,000 have been newly identified as HIV-positive and over 72,000, linked to care and treatment.

In his submission, Chairmman House Committee on AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (ATM), Honourable Godwin Ameobi insisted that Nigeria must address gender and human rights barriers as well as domestic financing to make progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

He stated that there is still much work to be done but believes that the summit is a right step in the right direction.

He encouraged the engagement between NACA and the legislature as a progress in knowing the right responses in eliminating HIV/AIDS.

He suggested that 1% of the consolidated National funds be dedicated to manage HIV/AIDS.”Government must take the lead by providing the needed funds.

NACA must also be improved upon to become a multi-sectoral agency to fight HIV/AIDS better”, he stated.

He stated that the committee will insist that all funds must be accounted for, to ensure transparency and accountability in attaining the renewed hope agenda of President Tinubu’s administration.

Ameobi called for more retreats on capacity building to help the legislators attend more events so as to keep them abreast of best global practices, while urging strict efforts against stigma and discrimination, especially in workplaces.

Participants at the retreat attended various sessions where speakers discussed National HIV response, statistics and the goals of the sustainability agenda.

Globally, about 39 million people are presently living with HIV while about 3 million are living with HIV in Nigeria , according to 2023 estimates.

4.9% of PLHIV globally and 41.6% of PLHIV in West and Central Africa are in Nigeria.

16 states in Nigeria have HIV prevalence above the national prevalence of 1.3%.

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140,000 Children Under Age 14 Living With HIV in Nigeria -UNAIDS

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MOH, NACA Launches PMTCT and Pediatric AIDS Acceleration Plan Committee

The Federal Ministry of Health, in partnership with the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) has launched the Prevention of Mother-to-child transmission(PMTCT) and Pediatric AIDS Acceleration Committee at a landmark event in Abuja.

In 2021, national and state-level consultations led to the development of Nigeria’s Global Alliance to End AIDS in Children Action Plan which was designed to scale up PMTCT efforts and pediatric HIV addressing the coverage gaps but despite the comprehensive strategy and accompanying financial commitment, PMTCT and pediatric HIV coverage has remained critically low.

In her welcome remarks, the Director General of NACA, Temitope Ilori noted that Nigeria faces a critical challenge in preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV and ensuring access to care for children living with HIV.

She described the gathering as one that is to provide an oversight to the PMTCT and Pediatric HIV programme implementation while supporting the government-mandated structures to ending HIV and AIDS among children.

“Our epidemiological estimates say 140,000 children under 14 are living with HIV as of 2023, with 22,000 new infections and 15,000 AIDS-related deaths in children.

Current PMTCT and pediatric HIV coverage remain alarmingly low at less than 33%, far short of the 95% target”, she stated.

The NACA DG believes that the infamous narrative of Nigeria’s contribution to the global burden of PMTCT and pediatric HIV can be changed and longs to see that no child is born HIV positive in Nigeria.

Also at the event, The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Coordinator Mrs. Funmi Adesanya noted that the US Government through the President’s Emergency plan for AIDS relief has invested more than $8.3bn over the last 21 years to eliminate HIV as a public health threat by 2030 here in Nigeria.

“These resources have been invested in health systems strengthening, health products including ARVs and rapid test kits, Human Resources and surge staff.

“We commend the leadership of the Government of Nigeria for its vision to addressing this urgent issue because it is an emergency.

“No child in Nigeria should be born with HIV and the U.S. Government is committed to our partnership to ensure that this is a reality.

Now is the time and we believe we have the right leadership represented to achieve this goal”, she stated.

In a goodwill message delivered by the first lady of Kwara State and the chairperson of the Nigeria Governors Spouses Forum, Prof. Olufolake Abdulrasaq, she commended the Honourable Minister of State for Health, Dr. Tunji Alausa for giving light foot to the efforts of the government in bridging this gap through the establishment of the committee and believes that such will be put in place at sub national levels as well.

“As critical stakeholders the Nigeria Governors Spouses Forum is committed to supporting this drive with a view to achieving this important national milestone.

“As you may be aware the Nigeria Governors Spouses’ Forum is an organization deeply committed to improving the health and well-being of Nigerians.

The forum has consistently championed and supported initiatives that promote healthcare, education, cancer awareness, and nutrition, as well as those addressing sexual and gender-based violence, drug abuse among women and children, and climate change in our respective states.

“With this event today it is however time to scale up these sensitization exercises by coming out and amplifying the message towards ensuring that AIDS is eliminated from our communities by the year 2030”, she said.

Other guests at the landmark event includes the Coordinating Minister for Health and Social Welfare Prof. Mohammed Ali-Pate, the Honourable Minister for State for Health and Social Welfare Dr Tunji Alausa, the Executive Governor of Kwara State and Chairperson Nigerian Governor’s Forum, Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq ably represented by the Director General Nigerian Governor’s Forum, Dr Lateef Shittu, the Chairperson Commissioners of Health Forum Dr Oyebanji Filani, the Chief Executive of the State AIDS Control Agency Forum Dr Adedayo Adegbolu, the National Coordinator National AIDS, Hepatitis and STI Control Programme Dr. Adebobola Bashorun, the UN Country Director Dr. Leo Zekeng, the National Coordinator Association of Women Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria Mrs. Esther Hindi, the Global Fund Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) Executive Secretary Mr. Tajudeen Ibrahim, the Country Director, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Dr. Echey Ijezie, Chief Executives of Partner Organizations and other Senior Government Functionaries

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Cholera: Death Toll Rises To 21, Suspected Cases Hit 401 In Lagos

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The Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Health, Kemi Ogunyemi, has said that the number of recorded fatalities as a result of the Cholera outbreak in the state has risen to 21 following the last update which reported 350 suspected cases and 15 fatalities. 

She also said the number of cholera cases has increased to 401 across Lagos with Lagos Island, Kosofe, and Eti Osa recording the highest numbers.

Ogunyemi revealed this on Thursday while providing an update on the outbreak after meeting with members of the Lagos State Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (PHEOC).

She added that the death toll has also risen to 21, an increase of six from the previously reported 15 fatalities.

According to her, the rise in cases was anticipated following the Ileya festivities during which large gatherings occurred.

She, however, noted that suspected cases are subsiding across LGAs particularly in previously affected LGAs due to state government interventions and surveillance efforts.

The Special Adviser stated that the Lagos State Government, through the Ministry of Health and other sister agencies, is maintaining rigorous surveillance and monitoring of the situation and implementing planned programs and activities to curb the spread.

“The Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the State Ministry of Environment and its agency, the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), continues to collect samples of water sources, food, and beverages to identify the source of contamination. We have also intensified our surveillance activities in communities, particularly in affected local government areas, to address the situation head-on.

“We are also working with the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education as well as the Ministry of Tertiary Education to ensure all precautions are taken in our schools to protect children and scholars as they return. Residents must, however, remain vigilant, practice good hand hygiene, and participate in community sanitation activities to stop the spread of cholera,” the Special Adviser stated.

She advised that citizens seek medical attention immediately if they experience symptoms such as watery diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain, general malaise, and fever, stressing that cholera treatment is provided free of charge at all public health facilities.

While noting that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu remains committed to ensuring that residents of Lagos receive quality and affordable health care, the special adviser extended the gratitude of the state government to local, national, and international partners—including UNICEF, WHO, NCDC, NIMR, Red Cross, and others —for their support in combating the outbreak.

“Appreciation is also extended to the dedicated team of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, lab scientists, environmental health officers, Water Corporation officers, surveillance officers, heads of agencies, members of PHEOC, and volunteers who are working around the clock to combat the disease and keep Lagos safe,” Ogunyemi said.

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Open Letter To Health Minister, Prof. Muhammad Ali Pate On Nigeria’s Mental Health Crisis, By Halima Layeni

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According to Halima Layeni, less than 10% of mentally ill Nigerians have access to the care they need. This is not just a statistic; it is a damning indictment of our collective failure to prioritize mental health as a fundamental aspect of overall well-being.

Dear Honorable Minister for Health,

I pen this letter to you with a heavy heart, but also with a fervent hope for change. As the Minister for Health and Social Welfare, you shoulder the immense responsibility of safeguarding the well-being of every Nigerian. Yet, amidst the myriad challenges we face as a nation, one issue stands out as a glaring indictment of our collective failure: the state of mental health care in Nigeria.

In a country of over 200 million people, we have fewer than 150 psychiatrists. Let that sobering fact sink in. Less than 150 specialists are tasked with addressing the mental health needs of a population grappling with the stresses of modern life, compounded by poverty, conflict, and inequality.

According to the WHO, less than 10% of mentally ill Nigerians have access to the care they need. This is not just a statistic; it is a damning indictment of our collective failure to prioritize mental health as a fundamental aspect of overall well-being.

To put this into perspective, let us compare our situation to that of other nations: In the United States, there are approximately 28,000 psychiatrists serving a population of 330 million people. In the United Kingdom, there are 12,300 psychiatrists for a population of 68 million. The disparity is stark, and it is unacceptable.

Numbers alone do not tell the full story. We must also confront the systemic issues that have hampered our efforts to provide adequate mental health care.

First and foremost, we must address the chronic underfunding of mental health services. Year after year, mental health budgets languish at the bottom of the priority list, starved of the resources they need to function effectively. This must change. We cannot hope to build a healthy, prosperous society without investing in the mental well-being of our citizens.

Equally pressing is the issue of inadequate facilities and infrastructure. Too often, those in need of mental health care are forced to travel long distances to access overstretched hospitals and clinics, only to find that essential medications and treatments are in short supply. We must invest in the expansion and modernization of our mental health infrastructure, ensuring that care is accessible to all who need it.

But perhaps most damning of all is the failure to implement existing laws and policies designed to protect the rights of individuals with mental health conditions. Our National Mental Health Policy, enacted in 2013, lays out a comprehensive framework for promoting mental health and ensuring access to quality care. Yet, too often, these lofty aspirations remain unrealized.

We cannot ignore the issue of men’s mental health. Traditional gender norms dictate that men should be stoic and strong, leading many to suffer in silence rather than seek help for their mental health issues. We must work to dismantle these harmful stereotypes and create a culture where men feel comfortable seeking support when they need it most.

As Minister for Health and Social Welfare, you have the power to effect change. You have the opportunity to reshape our nation’s approach to mental health care, to tear down the barriers that have long stood in the way of progress. But you cannot do it alone.

I call upon you to marshal the resources of your ministry, to rally support from across the government and civil society, and to lead by example in the fight for mental health equity. Together, we can build a future where every Nigerian has access to the care and support they need to thrive—a future where mental health is not just an afterthought, but a fundamental pillar of our national identity.

The time for action is now. The stakes could not be higher. Let us rise to the challenge, and in doing so, create a brighter, healthier future for all Nigerians.

Halima Layeni

Founder & Executive Director

Life After Abuse Foundation

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