No fewer than 45,000 persons living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria died in 2019, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS, has said.
Fiona Braka, a representative of the UN agency, disclosed this at a briefing ahead of the 2020 World AIDS Day organised by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA).
Braca, who said the death rate was unacceptable, said: “This is unacceptable as it’s happening in an era where government, donors and partners have successfully made life-saving medication and commodities available.”
The World AIDS Day is celebrated December 1 every year to honour the people who have fallen to the disease as well as people living with HIV.
It is also celebrated to raise awareness of the disease and the need for people to know their status.
The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is ‘Global solidarity, Shared responsibility’.
Ms Braka said the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening the progress that the world has made in health and development.
She noted that international agencies have collected data from countries through an online platform to identify how the pandemic has affected the delivery of routine HIV services and emerging challenges.
She commended the country’s effort in achieving 73 per cent coverage concerning people knowing their HIV status despite challenges posed by the pandemic.
She, however, said more work needs to be done to get more people tested to know their status
In his remarks, Director-General of NACA, Gambo Aliyu, said Nigeria has adopted the theme, ‘United to End AIDS in the Midst of COVID-19, So Get Tested’ due to the pandemic ravaging the world.
He said the 2020 HIV/AIDS response is different because of the coronavirus outbreak.
“We have heard and seen the impact of it on HIV programs. Even though we are scrutinising our data to find out the real impact on people living with HIV and AIDS.
“One thing that we know without looking at our data, we know that in terms of very economic realities, COVID-19 has had an adverse economic impact compared to other outbreak population,” he said.
He noted that the agency has launched a project, Prevent, Protect and Empower in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and supported by UNAIDS.
He said the project will focus on women living with HIV/AIDS because of their vulnerability.
“We are focusing on women simply because in terms of equality when it comes to businesses and empowerment, women are disadvantaged.
“I want to make sure that, first of all, we take care of women living with HIV and AIDS before we focus our attention to men,” he said.