The Plateau Government has abolished the collection of user fees for Human Immune Deficiency Virus (HIV) services in all public hospitals and health facilities in the state.
Gov. Simon Lalong disclosed this at the official launching of the Plateau State HIV Treatment Surge Light Campaign on Thursday in Jos.
Lalong, who was represented by his Deputy, Prof. Sonni Tyoden, said that the State Government would dialogue with private and voluntary health establishments in the state to abolish the same charges in their facilities.
He further said that as part of its commitment to the Surge programme to facilitate the achievement of the UNAIDS 95-95-95 set targets, the state government had pledged to purchase 55,000 HIV test kits to complement the ones supplied by the state’s partners.
He appealed to the United States Government, through its envoy to Nigeria, Mary Leonard, to assist the state through the provision of grants to consolidate on the achievements in the health sector.
Lalong also appealed for more support and funding for diseases of public health importance, among others.
The United States envoy to Nigeria, Mary Leonard, in her remarks, during the launch said that in Nigeria alone, PEPFAR had invested more than $6 billion in the National HIV/AIDS response, toward supporting both the national and state governments to find and treat people living with HIV.
Leonard said that the launching of the ART Surge programme would help in identifying people living with HIV and place the newly- identified persons on treatment.
She also said that it would also help in retaining those already receiving treatment.
According to her, both efforts are needed for better treatment outcomes and an improved quality of life for those affected.
The envoy disclosed that the state is in its final lap to achieving epidemic control.
She, however, called for the removal of all barriers that may impact health-seeking behaviours among people living with HIV, including ending user fees, stigma, and discrimination.
She said that services must be client-centered, therefore issues like long wait times in facility settings should be urgently addressed.
Leonard thanked Gov.Lalong for his commitment and leadership in supporting the ART Surge in the state.
She also acknowledged the Plateau State Government’s commitment in working with the United States Government, its agencies and partners as the State took steps to move toward reaching HIV/AIDS epidemic control.
She assured that the United States Government remained committed and stands ready to continue their partnership to support Plateau State as it builds upon its successes in the fight against HIV/AIDS and adopts strategies that will increase access to these life-saving services.
Earlier, the CEO of APIN Public Health Initiatives, Dr Prosper Okonkwo, said that APIN was partnering with the Plateau State Ministry of Health to launch the HIV Treatment Surge Light Campaign in the state.
Okonkwo said that the campaign would accelerate HIV case finding and treatment for HIV positive individuals in Nigeria.
He said that the HIV treatment Surge campaign was in response to the results of the National AIDS Indictor and Impact Survey (NAIIS) that put the prevalence of HIV in Plateau at 1.5 per cent.
He said that the campaign was also in response to PEPFAR’s classification of the state as a yellow state due to its low treatment saturation and unmet HIV treatment need.
The CEO said that Surge light aimed at closing the gap toward the UNAIDS 95.95.95 goal by the expanding access to HIV testing services to 6,902 people living with HIV and retaining 47,100 people on Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) by September 2021 in the state.
He also revealed that the APIN had been implementing HIV projects in Plateau since 2000.
He said that it was currently implementing the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) programme funded by the U.S.Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 15 of Plateau’s 17 Local Government Areas.
The Plateau Commissioner for Health, Dr Nimkong Ndam, said that the Surge launch was a “catch up” plan that would ensure increased HIV case finding in the state.
Ndam also said that the launch would increase access to life saving and sustained ART for all persons living with HIV and viral load suppression for at least 95 per cent of all patients on treatment, including children who had lagged behind, through the implementation of the paediatric and Adolescents ART Surge Strategy (PASS).
He said that the state government was in support of the joint initiative through its ongoing partnership with APIN Public Health Initiatives and assured of its commitment toward achieving the UNAIDS 95-95-95 set target.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the launching was attended by top government officials and Civil Society Organisations.(NAN)