Sanwo-Olu charges AIDS agency to track 60,000 untreated HIV victims

• Inaugurates HIV/AIDS consortium group

LAGOS State governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Wednesday said the state government on the trail of about 60,000 people, who tested positive to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) but did not go back for treatment, charging the Lagos State AIDS Control Agency (LSACA) to find the individuals for immediate antiretroviral therapy.

Governor Sanwo-Olu gave the charge while speaking at the inauguration of the State’s HIV Consortium Group held at Radisson Blu Anchorage Hotel in Victoria Island.

The event also featured the formal dissemination of disaggregated Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS).

According to the governor, the wanted HIV victims were diagnosed of the virus but were not captured in the State’s HIV Response Database, saying that the search for the affected individuals was to enable the state administer adequate antiretroviral treatment on them and prevent the spread of the virus.

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Sanwo-Olu said one of the key healthcare goals of his administration was to reduce the number of new HIV infections and help victims manage the trauma in line with best practice, disclosed that his government, since inception, had sustained deployment of resources to fight AIDS syndrome through LSACA and leveraging a multi-sectoral approach to achieve prevention and control.

“Lagos State government and its partners have worked and sacrificed resources to achieve the level of awareness that has significantly changed the behaviour of our people. This is evidenced by the reduction in the prevalence rate which currently stands at 1.4 per cent.

“Although the current prevalence rate shows a reduction, it is still a source of concern when we consider the actual number of people within the bracket. There is, therefore, the need for us to step up our efforts to achieve a further reduction in the prevalence rate through aggressive public enlightenment campaign which must be taken to the nooks and crannies of the state.

“To further achieve progress in our efforts, I am charging LSACA and other stakeholders working in this space to help track 60,000 people who tested positive to HIV for immediate free treatment. We are not out to punish them. We want to ensure they have access to proper care,” the governor said.

He said his government had strengthened its commitment towards achieving the “90’90’90 Goals” of the United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), pointing out that the Health and Environment pillar of his administration’s development agenda, known as Project T.H.E.M.E.S, would be implemented to prepare Lagos in achieving the goals by 2030.

According to the governor, the approach being deployed would be multi-sectoral and focused on improving the health system service delivery, scaling-up community response and maintaining sustained support of programmes.

He said: “This approach will concentrate on communities and their structures which have been at the forefront of the HIV response at the global, national and state levels; reaching out to people with prevention, care and support as well as treatment; promoting human rights and dealing with gender issues.”

Sanwo-Olu said the purpose of inaugurating the Lagos State HIV Consortium Group was to provide a platform for stakeholders to collaborate and coordinate a sustained and improved response towards achieving the 90’90’90 target in Lagos.

He said: “I believe the objectives of this event will usher in a new era in our response to the HIV/AIDS challenge as a result of the commitment of stakeholders to key into our strategic plans. I appeal to all residents to cooperate with us so that we can achieve a significant reduction in the incidence rate of HIV infection in our state.

“Let us voluntarily present ourselves at designated centres to know our HIV status. Being HIV positive is no longer a death sentence as people living with HIV/AIDS will be supported with necessary medication to live a normal life.”

Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi, said Governor Sanwo-Olu had demonstrated “uncommon commitment” to supporting healthcare delivery, noting that his administration became the first to commit 15 per cent of the State’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to funding healthcare.

LSACA Director General, Dr Monsurat Adeleke, said the synergy between the agency and the consortium group would help the state to track all the 60,000 individuals who tested positive to the virus by September 2020.

She listed the benefits of the consortium, saying: “The synergising of efforts will complement and support main donors in prevention, care and treatment. We will be able to harness multi-sectoral partnership for mobilisation of resources for HIV interventions within and outside the health sector.”

Also, Consul-General of the United States (U.S.) in Lagos, Ms Claire Pierangelo, pledged continued support for the State’s HIV/AIDS response.

She said the American government would collaborate with all stakeholders in ensuring the greatest impact for those in need of antiretroviral therapy.

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