NIGERIA HIV/AIDS NEWS
Nigeria and Global AIDS Fund(Thisday Editorial)
December 15, 2005
The greatest revelation at the ICASA 2005 held in Abuja was not a cure for HIV and AIDS or a new drug to give a longer lease to PLWH. Rather, it is the depressing news that Nigeria is about to lose access to a princely N30 billion worth of aid from Global Funds for the control of acquired immno-deficiency syndrome, tuberculosis and malaria.
In a ringing indictment of the National Action Committee on AIDS [NACA], Global AIDS Funds said that the possibility of Nigeria not benefiting from its rescues was high because of the non-transparent and inefficient manner the AIDS campaign has been handled so far. One of the specific charges that the Fund brought against the country is failure to utilize in a credible manner the $201 million made available for the AIDS campaign in the past five years. Global Funds alleges that treatment of victims might not have received the sort of attention that the international agency prescribes before more funds can be released. It accused the Nigerian authorities of haphazardly implementing the HIV/AIDS programme drawn by it.
The agency also complained about NACA's inability to submit a realistic programme of action in line with its specifications. It said it was not satisfied with the hasty manner money was expended when it eventually came. For all of this the country might not qualify for the second tranch of funding from Global AIDS Funds.
Responding , however, NACA said the delay in the implementation of programmes was largely due to Global Funds' late approval of its action plan . It was not until the plans were approved and money released that execution of projects commenced. It said although there was an apparent rush in executing some of the programmes, due process was still followed. On the concern of Global AIDS Funds about treatment as opposed to prevention, NACA explained that it has established more than the 25 treatment centres recommended by the Funds. Altogether, it said , 33 treatment centres have been set up across the country.
Deducible from this face-off between Global AIDS Funds and NACA is the fact that all is not well with the HIV/AIDS campaign in Nigeria. This is most disturbing in view of the high incidence of the pandemic in the country. The statistics are chilling. About five percent of the population -- amounting to more than three million people-- are already infected, including children and pregnant women. Quite a few of these are too poor to afford the price of the anti-retroviral drugs. Little wonder then that at the Abuja conference, a group of HIV/AIDS patients demanded free supply of anti-retroviral drugs as obtains in some African countries.
It is no small paradox that where as other countries are out to grasp as much from Global AIDS Funds as they can, Nigeria is mired in a controversy over proper handling of its own campaign. This, unfortunately, has become a familiar pattern. We recall a similar indictment against the nation from the World Bank over the implementation of water projects that are partly financed by the bank. This does not speak well of Nigeria as a nation nor of its leaders as managers of men and material.
Whatever the truth may be on the Global AIDS Funds' allegation, one thing cannot be denied: the HIV/AIDS campaign in Nigeria is in dire need of traction . Much seems to be wrong with it. In the area of patient treatment, we want to see better result. It is not enough that 33 centres are in place. As important is the provision of the necessary drugs at affordable prices or where possible, free of charge.
Also, given the rapid rate at which the pandemic is spreading, the campaign on prevention must be intensified. The NACA may need to be revitalised in terms of personnel. The complacent attitude of some of its officials and the authorities of the Yakubu Gowon Centre for Unity and International Co-operation leaves much to be desired.
All said, the Committee must do all that is possible to ensure that Nigeria is not cut off from the resources of the Global AIDS Fund. It needs them.