The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Stuart Symington has said that the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) administered by the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), U.S. Department of Defense, and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is implementing an Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) surge program in Rivers state.
Stuart Symington said the programme aims to identify and provide treatment to approximately 180,000 PLHIV who have not previously received such.
Speaking at the Government House Port Harcourt on Tuesday during a meeting on the promotion of the health of Rivers people, the U.S Ambassador to Nigeria, said the U.S. government’s $75 million budget increased for HIV control activities in Nigeria, with about $25 million allocated for the ART surge activities.
Ambassador Symington thanked Governor Wike for announcing his intent to eliminate user-fees for PLHIV. The U.S. delegation was in Rivers state to advocate for the elimination of user-fees for all people living with HIV, antenatal care charges for pregnant women living with the virus, and other barriers hindering PLHIV from accessing health services.
The Ambassador emphasized that Governor Wike’s pronouncement serves as an example to other states and the federal government to eliminate such user fees.
“The United States remains committed to supporting Nigeria as it works to reduce and ultimately eliminate the scourge of HIV/AIDS among its people,” Ambassador Symington said.
He noted the increased funding to make antiretrovirals available would enable more people living with HIV to lead healthy, productive lives until the day a cure for the virus is found.
The Ambassador noted that disbursement of the additional PEPFAR HIV funds is contingent upon Nigerian federal and state governments reducing or eliminating financial barriers to PLHIV access to services, in particular fees charged by healthcare facilities for non-essential services or those already provided by PEPFAR.
Governor Nyesom Wike explained that with the support of the United States Government, the state is running 115 sites to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS.
He said that the health programmes of the Rivers State Government are yielding results as the immunization statistics of the state has moved from 54percent to 82 per cent.