According to the U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires (CDA), Kathleen FitzGibbon, Abia had the sixth highest HIV prevalence rate in the country with an estimated 58,341 cases.FitzGibbon said this in Umuahia on Tuesday, at a stakeholder meeting organised by CDA, in collaboration with Catholic Caritas Foundation (CCF) and the Abia government.
Vanguard reports that the Mission Nigeria interagency team to Abia, which was led by the CDA who said the meeting also marked “the re-engagement of U.S. assistance to the state, through its President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief” adding that the U.S. government will support renewed efforts towards HIV epidemic control in Abia.
In her statement she said, “The U.S. will work with the state government and other stakeholders to close the HIV treatment gap.We shall identify and initiate treatment for additional 37,000 People Living with HIV (PLHIV) in Abia, within the next two years.The U.S. is looking to Abia to lead and demonstrate a model of sustainable state ownership of the HIV response.This will help to strengthen the partnership between the U.S and Abia,”
She further discussed concerning the new U.S approach with the aim of supporting the state’s expanded HIV programme, encouraging stakeholders to be actively involved in such a way that would help to ensure that all PLHIV are identified and placed on life-saving treatment.
She expressed her delight that “HIV was no longer a death sentence compared to the case 20 years ago. Adding that, no fewer than 1.6 million Nigerians were placed on treatment, and if treatment is started, death will be minimalized.
The stigmatization of PLHIV was described by the US official as a major challenge against the HIV war in the country, given the fact that stigmatisation was preventing many PLHIV from making themselves available for treatment.
Also speaking concerning the issue, Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu, narrowed the high prevalence of HIV in Abia to the fact that the state shared boundaries with seven states that reportedly had high prevalence rates.
Represented by his Deputy, Chief Oko Chukwu, the governor said his administration had initiated proactive measures to check cross border transmission of the disease.
The Director-General, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Dr Aliyu Gambo, called on Aba entrepreneurs to prove their mettle by venturing into the manufacture of HIV vaccines.
Dr Gambo said “Aba is known all over the world for its ingenuity in the production of locally made goods. I, therefore, charge the people to use their entrepreneurial spirit to produce HIV vaccines for Nigeria,”.
In addition,Most Rev. Lucius Ugorji,The Catholic Bishop of Umuahia Diocese represented by the Auxilliary Bishop, Most Rev. Michael Ukpong, on behalf of CCF, acknowledged the U.S for choosing the organisation to implement its HIV programme in the country.