The Network of People Living with HIV in Nigeria, Lagos State chapter, NEPWHAN, has called on the Federal and state governments to save the lives of indigent members by making HIV treatment totally free.
Making the call recently at an event to mark the 2021 World AIDS Day with the theme: ‘End inequalities, End AIDS, Support PLHIV’ the group noted that some facilities such as the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research, NIMR and the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, still collect money for drug pick up.
Speaking on the challenges of the people living with HIV/AIDS, the secretary of NEPWHAN, Ms Monica Obi urged the Lagos State governor to wade into the issue.
“For example, the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research, NIMR. NIMR might not be directly linked to Lagos State but it is in the State and the governor can do something about it.
“We want a situation whereby our people can walk into any facility and collect their antiretroviral drugs, ARVs, free of charge. He should take our message to President Muhammad Buhari that we want free and accessible ARVs in NIMR.
“We want a baseline test in viral load test free. There are some indigent clients that will not be able to pay and because of that they will be missing appointments and some will not be taking their drugs regularly because they will be scared of the money they will pay on the next appointment.
“In facilities like LUTH, they pay N5,000 for a viral load test. So we want HIV treatment to be totally free.”
Obi also lamented the lack of some regimens in NIMR.
“In NIMR, there are some regimens of ARVs that are not available. Some have not taken ARVs for months. So you are indirectly telling the people to go and die.”
Speaking on stigmatisation, the Lagos State Coordinator of NEPWHAN, Mr. Patrick Akpan, said Nigeria may not be able to end HIV/AIDS because a lot of people are still being discriminated against thereby losing job opportunities.
Akpan who has been living with HIV 17 years said: “Within the last one month, we have gotten more than three or four stigma cases.
When you stigmatise people living with HIV that means you do not regard that person because of his status, that is stigma.
“If we discrimate, it means we are not heading to ending Aids because a lot of people will be hiding, nobody will want to come out because of discrimination.
“Government needs to do a lot more because I don’t know what will happen if the donors decide not to give us drugs again.”
He, however, rated the efforts of the government at just 30 percent.
On his own, Umoru Ibrahim who has managed HIV for the past two decades said the ugliest thing that impedes the response to HIV is stigma and discrimination.
Ibrahim said: “Science has proven that even people living with HIV who are on treatment and have their viral load suppressed cannot transmit the virus.
“It hurts to hear that employers of labour will deny somebody employment because of his or her HIV status.”
He said Nigeria has not got to where the citizens should jubilate yet because there are still a lot of work to be done.
“It is most dangerous that we have an epidemic of this magnitude and it is donor driven. Everything about HIV is funded by donors. The Nigerian government’s financial input is about 10 percent and it is shameful.
“Let the government take ownership and let us have a fair playground for everybody. Then produce drugs here, produce test kits here and let the treatment get better. What we are having now is not the best,” Ibrahim stated.