As the world marks the 35th World AIDS Day with the theme ‘The time to act is now’, the United States (US) on Monday denied the report that it was stopping funding of AIDS in Nigeria.
The US Ambassador to Nigeria, James F. Entwistle said in Abuja at an occasion commemorating the 35th World AIDS Day with, that his country will continue to focus on services in areas with the greatest HIV burden and will support most effective interventions.
Amb. Entwistle however tasked the Nigerian government on the need to increase its contribution to the partnership
He said: “Contrary to some recent media reporting, the United States is not stopping President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) funding to Nigeria. We do anticipate some reduction in the overall budget. We will continue to focus our services in areas with the greatest HIV burden and will support the most effective interventions.
”Our continued commitment to support the Nigerian government and its people remains strong. Indeed, as we are discussing with the new Nigerian administration, we think it important that the contribution of your government to our joint health partnership increase.”
Insisting that the time to act is now, Entwistle said, “Achieving our goals to end HIV/AIDS will not be easy. To reach them, we all must share responsibility and strengthen our efforts. Working in partnership, we have come a very long way since the worst days of the epidemic, but the work is far from done.”
PEPFAR is the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease. Through PEPFAR, the U.S. governmentt has committed nearly $65 billion to support the HIV/AIDS response globally.
Since 2004, the year PEPFAR began in Nigeria, the program has provided more than $4.2 billion (over N800 billion) to support the Nigerian HIV/AIDS response.
Entwistle maintained that the number of lives touched and the people saved “offer testimony to PEPFAR’s successes in Nigeria.
“Some measures of progress include the nearly 600,000 people currently on HIV treatment. In the past year, nearly 8.6 million people have received HIV counseling and testing services. Prevention messages and activities have reached over 300,000 people identified as most at-risk.
“Approximately, 55,000 pregnant women have received anti retro-viral drugs for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Also, 750,000 adults and children living with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis have received care services.
Finally, more than one million children orphaned and made vulnerable by AIDS have received care and support.”
Earlier this year, he said that President Obama set a bold course for PEPFAR by announcing new HIV prevention and treatment targets for 2016 and 2017.
The Ambassador revealed further that by the end of 2017, “PEPFAR will support 12.9 million people with life-saving treatment.
“PEPFAR also aims to reduce HIV incidence by 40 percent among adolescent girls and young women.”
He also urged Nigerian government leaders, scientists, civil society, faith-based organizations, and the private sector to join together in solidarity to bring this unrelenting epidemic to a halt.
“We can create an AIDS-free generation where no one is left behind, but we must continue working together to make that happen,” he stressed.
Speaking on the theme for this year celebration, the Ambassador said, “This theme conveys the urgency of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS. The strategy behind the UN program is simple, and involves information, treatment, and suppression of the disease. Its goal is for 90 percent of all people with HIV to know they are HIV positive, 90 percent of all those infected to receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 90 percent of all those on antiretroviral therapy to reach viral suppression. These actions should lead to the elimination of the HIV/AIDS epidemic once and for all.”