By Edoamaowo Udeme
The United States Ambassador to Nigeria Mr W. Stuart Symington, has led a U.S. delegation on a courtesy visit to Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike at Government House, Port-Harcourt, to highlight the U.S. government’s $75 million budget increase for HIV control activities in Nigeria, with about $25 million allocated for the ART surge activities.
According to Symington, “The Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) surge program in Rivers state is to identify and provide treatment to approximately 180,000 PLHIV who have not previously received such”.
“People Living with HIV (PLHIV) globally require appropriate medical treatment in order to live a normal and healthy life”. Said Symington
Symington, while thanking Governor Wike for announcing his intent to eliminate user-fees for PLHIV said “We are here to advocate for 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”.
He emphasized that Governor Wike’s pronouncement serves as an example to other states and the federal government to eliminate such user fees.
The Ambassador had earlier paid a similar visit to Akwa Ibom state Governor Udom Emmanuel where he noted that “The United States remains committed to supporting Nigeria as it works to reduce and ultimately eliminate the scourge of HIV/AIDS among its people”.
“The increased funding to make anti-retrovirals available would enable more people living with HIV to lead healthy, productive lives until the day a cure for the virus is found”.
“The disbursement of the additional PEPFAR HIV funds are 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” He stressed.
The project is handled by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) administered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), U.S. Department of Defense, and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).