The Civil Society on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, CiSHAN, has called on the Global Fund and other donor agencies to increase their commitment to HIV Self Testing in Nigeria as a means of reaching the unreached population, especially adolescents. young persons and other vulnerable populations,
This is as the HIV advocacy group commenced advocacy to create a culture of HIV self-testing among Nigerians at all levels.
The campaign, which is expected to reach all corners of the country, is in a bid to get at least 10 million young Nigerians tested for their HIV status by the end of 2020.
The move is also part of efforts to support the federal government in its goal to reach its first 95 of the 95-95-95 global target of halting the transmission of HIV by the year 2030.
The Executive Secretary, CiSHAN, Dr. Walter Ugwuocha says aside from the need to increase the number of Nigerians with access to HIV testing, the campaign will identify newly diagnosed HIV positive individuals and link them up with treatment centres for expedited care.
A 2018 National AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (2018) had revealed that Nigeria was still far from achieving its set targets in HIV control, a situation that was further worsened by the advent of the COVID-19 outbreak.
CISHAN noted that the inability of patients to access treatment during the COVID -19 lockdown could have gravely set back gains already made by Nigeria in the control of HIV, despite concerted efforts to reach a few with lifesaving treatments during the heat of the pandemic.
‘‘Our strategy is focused on creating awareness and demand for HIV self-testing in Nigeria. We intend to utilise over 5000 members of the organisation located in the 774 local government areas of Nigeria to facilitate access to HIV self-testing kits in both rural and hard to reach areas, Dr. Walter explained.
‘This campaign is code-named HIV Self-Testing Campaign: Getting 10Million Nigerians to know their HIV status through HIV Self-Testing’’ He said.
He said ‘‘We have commenced community discussion on making HIV Self Testing kits work for Pregnant women across the country and how the National government (FMoH & NPHCDA) can make it available & accessible to them especially those who would and cannot patronize government facilities.
The group wants all its constituent members to accept the national rollout of the HIV self-testing program as it can help in closing the huge HIV testing gap and ensuring the country achieves the first 95 in the HIV response.
CiSHAN has also urged the Federal Ministry of Health, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) and various state Ministries, Agencies and Departments involved with the HIV/AIDS response to disseminate HIV Self Testing guidelines urgently.