HIV patients lament high user fees, treatment failure

Director General, National Agency for the Control of AIDS, NACA, Dr. Sani Aliyu (left); Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on AIDS and Tuberculosis, David Ombugadu; Country Representative, United Nations Women, Adjaratou Ndiaye and UNAIDS  Country Director, Dr. Bilali Camara during the National HIV Prevention Conference 2016 in Abuja… yesterday.

UNAIDS seeks inclusion of medication in NHIS

These are hard times for people living with HIV/AIDS in the country, The Guardian has learnt.

Besides the high user fees that they are allegedly charged, the patients are lamenting the rising cases of treatment failure. Nigeria may soon witness a higher rate of deaths from the ailment if nothing is done urgently to address the situation.

Ahead of the World AIDS Day today, The Guardian learnt that many hospitals are still charging many of the people living with HIV in Nigeria fees, sometimes as high as N7000 for monitoring tests. Chemistry and Haematology (essential laboratory) tests for PLHIV which were hitherto free in the country are now being paid for.

The Guardian had earlier this year reported that the United States government that had largely supported the HIV/AIDS scheme in the areas of chemistry tests and antiretroviral drugs (ARV) for the affected people through the President’s Emergency Programme for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) had officially withdrawn a substantial amount of the support.

It was learnt that the 2015 target for HIV treatment coverage for adults and children was not achieved while the quality of HIV services provided has also remained worrisome. “Also, we do not measure the management of HIV co-infections. Yet we are aware that in Nigeria, co-infection of HIV with tuberculosis, hepatitis and cancers are very high,” a stakeholder said.

To address the situation, stakeholders urged the Federal Ministry of Health to institute a mechanism to ensure all hospitals providing HIV treatment services, no matter the status, adhere to prescribed standards of practice.

They also want the government to remove the barriers to accessing HIV treatment.

The Executive Secretary of the Civil Society for HIV and AIDS in Nigeria (CiSHAN), Walter Ugwuocha said:

“As the HIV treatment programme matures, it is important that we equally look for ways to ensure the cost of programme implementation drops. One of these ways is shifting to the use of cheaper and less toxic first-line drugs. It is also important we consider generic drug production. We must recognise the value in the use of self-test kits as a tool that can help reduce the barriers to individuals determining their HIV status,” he said.

Ugwuocha also wants the national HIV treatment programme to be weaned off donor support. “The HIV treatment programme in Nigeria is heavily dependent on the support of international partners. We demand that the national government’s investment in the HIV treatment programme should increase by at least 100% by the end of 2018. One such approach is the institution of the AIDS trust fund,” he told The Guardian.

The Resident Coordinator of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/ AIDS (UNAIDS), Dr. Bilali Camara urged the inclusion of HIV/ AIDS testing and treatment in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

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