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Time Bomb: 2.9m HIV Positive Nigerians Not On Treatment

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Experts have warned that there is a potential HIV/AIDS time bomb over Nigeria as an estimated 2.9 million people living with HIV/AIDS out of 3.4 million Nigerians with the disease in 2014 are not on anti-retroviral.

Most of the HIV experts who spoke at a symposium to mark the 2015 World AIDS Day, marked each December 1, said if the matter is not addressed urgently, more people will be at risk.

Speaking at the event organised by the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, NIMR, in collaboration with Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, Lagos branch, Dr. Sylvia Adebajo of the Population Council Abuja, noted that only 500,000 people are currently on treatment, while the 2.9 million largely men, serve as reservoir for the spread of HIV.

“Men do not go to hospital as much as women so they are the most difficult to reach. Those at higher risks include; women, homosexuals, men who engage with drugs and those who have sex with female sex workers.”

She cautioned that the attitude of testing people and letting them go without follow up needs to be stopped, and more people, particularly men needs to be reached with treatment.

Director-General of NIMR, Prof Innocent Ujah, regretted that despite that effective available for the diagnosis and clinical management, the AIDS epidemic still claims an estimated two million lives each year, of which about 270, 000 are children.

“The multi – year theme since 2012 has been “getting to zero with the three main sub-themes of zero new infections, zero deaths from AIDs – related illnesses and zero discrimination.

Ujah who lauded the UNAIDS 90 – 90 -90 initiative said it was designed to have 90 percent of all people diagnosed with HIV infection receive sustained ARV therapy and 90- percent of all people receiving ARV will have viral suppression.

“With 90 percent of those on treatment having viral suppression, there will be a drastic break of transmission of new infection and end the HIV/AIDS pandemic by 2030.”

Also in her presentation, on how to prevent new infection, Dr. Oladipo Fisher, from Lagos State AIDS Control Agency, LASACA, said early initiation of HIV positive people into antiretroviral drugs will decrease rate of new infection, as well as reduce HIV-related illnesses and deaths.