Former Coordinator, Lagos Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS, Mr. Ibrahim Umoru, has accused the Federal Government of paying lip service to the treatment and welfare of Nigerians living with the dreaded virus.
Umoru said, in an interview with our correspondent on Tuesday, that although the United States and Sweden shared about 95 per cent of the cost of treating HIV patients in Nigeria, the FG had defaulted on its promise to increase its counterpart funding of HIV programmes from five per cent to 50 per cent.
Noting that the government?s failure to fulfil its promise might have angered foreign donors, he said, ?The problem with the national response to HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in Nigeria is that it?s primarily donor-driven. The US Government, through PEPFAR, contributes 75 per cent while the Global Fund contributes 25 per cent.
?In 2009, the Nigerian government signed a framework with the US that, by 2015, it will shore up its counterpart funding to 50 per cent. Unfortunately, the government failed woefully in this regard and the American donors are not happy with this. So, they began to withdraw and reprogramme their funds. For instance, laboratory testing and monitoring used to be free in PEPFAR- run clinics, but that is no longer so.
?Patients now have to pay for chemistry and heamatology tests. This now brings the cost to the management of HIV in Nigeria.?
Umoru, who said that the added cost had resulted in more HIV patients defaulting from treatment and testing, expressed the opinion that the present situation could worsen infection rates.
He said, ?Even when the treatment was totally free, HIV patients still had the financial burden of ensuring that they are not infectious. Now that they have to pay for health services, this will impede access and remove the sense of responsibility.
? When patients don?t get the right treatment, they fall ill and are likely to infect other people with the virus.?
Also, Umoru argued that many of the donor-driven programmes were not designed to suit the country?s health policies and poor funding from government had allowed donors to implement policies that contradicted official government policies.
He said that it was high time the FG expanded the ownership of programmes through funding, as failure to do so could make the viral disease a death sentence again.
He said, ?The Federal Government must know that he who pays the piper calls the tune. For instance, PEPFAR says that a pregnant woman has to ask to be tested for HIV, while the national policy says the healthcare provider should counsel her to do the test.
?If we agree, it means that we will miss more pregnant women who are infected and also miss the opportunity to prevent mother-to child transmission if we are waiting for them to ask to be tested. If the government is the one providing the funding, partners A or B will not dictate to them.?