The United States government has allocated $400 million to scale up treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), an agency of the US government, has said.
The US government promised that nobody who is infected with HIV/AIDS will left behind, adding that already, a $90 million US has been invested in a survey to determine the true number of those infected with the virus in Nigeria
The Global HIV/AIDS Coordinator of PEPFAR, Ambassador Deborah Birx, said these during the ongoing high level dialogue with pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies.
The meeting was convened by the new Vatican Dicastery of Integral Human Development at the Papal Academy of Sciences, the Vatican in Rome, Italy.
A statement issued by the International Director of Catholic Caritas Foundation of Nigeria and Executive Secretary, Justice Development and Peace Commission, two agencies of the Catholic Church, Rev. Fr. Evaristus Bassey, said she was reacting to concerns about the disparity of treatment given to people in areas with supposed lower disease burden in Nigeria.
Whereas those in the scale up areas were to be put on treatment as soon as they were tested, those in sustain support areas do not have the same privilege.
Birx said, “The fact that $90 million US investment in a survey to determine the true number of those infected with the virus in Nigeria will help resolve the issue. We have realized that the numbers in Nigeria may be overestimated. We marked some areas scale up to concentrate on where the disease burden was and to have something to show after many years.
“But then, the numbers have not added up. So it looks like the data is overestimated. We are putting in $90 million US dollars for a huge survey. As soon as we determine the true picture, we will move the money everywhere it is needed.
“We have allocated $400 million US Dollars to Nigeria and we are not moving a single dollar out. When the real numbers are out, everyone who needs treatment will get it.”
The Heads of several pharmaceutical companies as well as diagnostic companies, including regulators like the US government Office of Food and Drug Administration, were in attendance.
Also, Non-Governmental Organisations like Caritas Internationalis, Medicines Sans Frontiers popularly called Doctors Without Borders were also invited at the meeting where the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan also addressed the meeting.
Bassey said, “The meeting was aimed at extracting a commitment to ensure availability and access to child friendly HIV/AIDS drugs in view of the fact that there is reportedly up to a 70 per cent gap in terms of access. There was no representative from National Agency for the Control of AIDS, although NACA was invited. The new dicastery is headed by Cardinal Turkson of Ghana.”