The United States says it has committed more than $5.1 billion to the fight against HIV/AIDS in Nigeria through its President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
The U.S. Charge d’ Affaires, David Young, said this on Thursday in Abuja at the opening of a photo exhibition to commemorate PEPFAR’s 15th Anniversary in Nigeria.
“Since 2003 the PEPFAR has transformed lives through access to life saving HIV prevention treatment services. American people have kept this commitment over the past 15 years.
“Today our global commitments stand at 72.7 billion dollars, combating what has been described as the worst human scourge in history.
“In Nigeria we have committed more than five billion dollars to the fight against HIV/AIDS since the inception of PEPFAR,” he said.
He reiterated the commitment of the U.S. government to collaborating with the federal government in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
“By pushing ahead together, we can control an epidemic for which there is no vaccine or cure. We are closer than we have ever been before.
“The fight against HIV/ AIDS is a joint campaign, we have worked together in partnership and we will continue with this in future.
“The effort that we have made in the fight is a triumphant effort, this is live-saving worth and live-saving efforts in the last 15 years,” he said.
According to him, U.S. government has achieved encouraging results, reaching millions of Nigerians all over the country, such as providing antiretroviral treatment for those infected with HIV.
He said that this included pregnant women, to prevent HIV transmission to the next generation, community outreach for HIV awareness, and providing care and support to children orphaned or made vulnerable by AIDS and other children
He said that PEPFAR had helped to provide diagnostics and treatment to tuberculosis to many HIV positive individuals.
“Fifteen years ago, when PEPFAR was created, an HIV diagnosis was a death sentence in many countries. Today, death and despair have been overwhelmingly replaced with life and hope.
“The U.S. government through FPEFAR, has not only saved and improved millions of lives, but also transformed the global HIV/AIDS response,” he said.
The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, described PEPFAR as a game changer that brought hope to the hopeless situation of some of the people living with HIV/AIDS in the country.
Mr Adewole commended the U.S. government for the support and assistance through PEPFAR which, he said, had brought relief to those living with the virus in the country.
“We want to thank the U.S. government for putting down the money through PEPFAR to fight against the scourge in the country.
“This is the victory of science over disease, over death and sickness it shows what human being can do. We want you to convey our appreciation to the U.S government,” he said.
The Director-General, Health Implementation programme, Ministry of Defence, Nurudeen Hussein, a brigadier general, said PEPFAR had helped in reducing the HIV/AIDS prevalence in the military to 2.5 per cent from 3.5 per cent.
According to him, through the PEPFAR there have been an improvement in the infrastructure and the laboratory upgrade in the military healthcare delivery.
“It has also improved our healthcare delivery service in such a way that the healthcare programme caters for 85 per cent of civilians who were within and around our barracks,” Mr Hussein said.
The Director-General, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Sani Aliyu, said that before PEPFAR treatment of HIV victims was very expensive but PEPFAR has changed the entire HIV spectrum.
Mr Aliyu said that the scheme had brought hope and light to the people living with the virus.
“Twenty years ago in this country what we have is darkness, people living with HIV could not see the light, if you have HIV it was basically a death sentence; PEPFAR has brought hope, and light to that darkness,” he said.
According to him, PEPFAR epitomises humanity, the generosity and compassion when it comes to dealing with people that are sick, it has shown that there is hope for the future.
“If you look at our statistics in the country there is a particular graph that shows that without HIV programme we would have lost about 1.5 million Nigerians and have at least more five million Nigerians infected than what we have now.
“The fulcrum of the HIV response in Nigeria is PEPFAR, it looks after thousands of people with the sickness; they are doing that willingly as a country.
“They are doing that without us begging you, we are extremely grateful, what you have done we can pay back,” he said.