By Doosur Iwambe
The Civil Society for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (CiSHAN) has revealed that out of the 1.9million people living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, about 900,000 are yet to show up for treatment and are currently unaccounted for.
To address this gap, the group said that it has launched a campaign with a target to reach about 10 million people with HIV self-testing kits by the end of 2020.
Speaking during a virtual media round table for the commencement of the national campaign for HIV self-testing in Nigeria in Abuja, CiSHAN executive secretary, Mr Walter Ugwocha said that the strategy is focused on creating awareness and demand for HIV self-testing in Nigeria.
According to him, the campaign will assist in identifying newly diagnosed HIV positive individuals as they will be introduced to early treatment.
Ugwocha while quoting the 2018 Nigeria Aida Indicator and Inoact Survey lamented that Nigeria was lagging behind in achieving the 1st 95 of the 95-95-95 target by 2030.
He called on the Federal Ministry of Health, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), and various state Ministries, Agencies, and Departments involved with the HIV/AIDS response to as a matter of urgency disseminate HIV Self Testing guidelines.
He said, “the COVID-19 lockdown significantly decreased access of community members general, key, and vulnerable population to HIV testing.
“Prior to the lockdown, there had been challenges with thinking around how to address the gap with populations access to HIV testing and identifying the unreached HIV positive population.
“The need to evolve community-driven HIV testing strategies was further re-affirmed by the anecdotal field reports by CISHAN during the lockdown.
“CiSHAN had coordinated a national effort in partnership with Positive Action for Treatment Access (PATA), Association of Women Against AIDS in Nigeria (ASWHAN) and the Association of Positive Youth in Nigeria (APYIN) to work with identified community members/advocates in cohorts to deliver anti-retroviral drugs to PLHIV in need of it during the intensive phase of the lockdown. CISHAN volunteers identified multiple individuals who asked for where to get tested: a gap that could be addressed through access to self-test kits.
“The strategy is focused on creating awareness and demand for HIV self-testing in Nigeria.
Through its over 5,000 members located in the 774 local government areas of Nigeria, CISHAN with the support of the media will facilitate access to HIV self-testing kits in both rural and hard to reach areas/populations.
This campaign is a code-named HIV Self Testing Campaign: Getting 10 million Nigerians to know their HIV status through HIV Self Testing”.
Ugwocha further revealed that the test kits are available in major pharmacies across the country.
Adding that campaign will lead to increase in the number of Nigerians who have tested for HIV.