By Iyke Obi Durumba
The proposed HIV/AIDS Trust Fund designed to bridge the funding gap in the prevention and treatment of the disease will take off in March next year. The Director General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, NACA, Dr. Sani Aliyu made this known on Tuesday at a civil society accountability forum held at the NAF Conference Centre, Abuja.
The forum themed ‘Domestic Resource Mobilization: Increasing Public-Private Sector Investment’, is a gathering of civil society groups involved in HIV/AIDS under the aegis of Civil Society Accountability Forum to deliberate on common issues in the battle against the disease in Nigeria.
Declaring the event open, the Chairperson of the board of the Nigeria Agency for the Control of AIDS, Mrs. Pauline Tallen commended civil society for the important role they have played in the fight against HIV/AIDS and gave full assurance of government support. “They are our greatest resource as they are reaching the unreached. We appreciate their good work and this will mark a new page in the relationship in the fight to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.”
In his remarks at the opening ceremony, DG NACA, Dr. Sani Aliyu said the HIV/AIDS Trust Fund will take off in March as it has been adopted by the private sector. To be called the HIV/AIDS Trust Fund of Nigeria, the DG stated that it is private sector driven as all commitments have been concluded in that regard.
Lamenting the lack of universal health insurance converge for HIV/AIDS, the DG condemned the present policy of NHIS coverage for only testing and called for the inclusion of People Living With HIV/AIDS. Revealing that about 1.1m Nigerians are currently on treatment, Dr. Aliyu hinted that early results from an ongoing survey may necessitate a shift of emphasis from treatment to prevention.
In his own address, former DG NACA and current President of Society for AIDS in Africa (SAA), Prof John Idoko highlighted the issue of funding stressing that Nigeria could not keep depending on grants and must look inwards. “If we do not have more resources, we will lose the gains we have made,” he warned.
Earlier in her welcome address, co-Chair of the Civil Society Accountability Forum Ize Adava said the 2018 edition of the forum was designed to bring stakeholders together to deliberate on how to address the growing gap in domestic resourcing for AIDS control in Nigeria. “This year’s edition of the accountability forum is auspicious because it is the first international edition albeit the third overall.”
The 3-day conference which also features a scientific symposium titled “Task shifting and Viral Load Testing – the role of community actors as partners” is organized by the Society for AIDS in Africa (SAA) in conjunction with Peer Review Forum and is hosting over a hundred delegates from the US and 10 other African countries as a precursor to the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa ICASA scheduled for Kigali, Rwanda in 2019.