HIV/AIDS: People travel from Nigeria to London to get treatment – Expert

SOME Nigerians travel to foreign countries, including London in the United Kingdom, to access care for HIV/AIDS, an expert on the disease, Kema Onu, has said.

Onu, who was a special guest on an Instagram Live programme organised by The ICIR on the HIV/AIDS treatment in Nigeria, noted that the need to avoid discrimination was a major reason for the use of foreign hospitals.

“As I speak with you, I’ve been in the HIV/AIDS space for quite a long time. People travel from Nigeria to London to collect antiretroviral drugs. Yes, because they do not trust the health care system in term (in Nigeria) for preventing it.

“Here, the major impediment to accessing HIV is not the virus itself. The virus is not HIV today. The main virus is stigma and discrimination.”

According to him, people travel from one part of Nigeria to another for tests and treatment for the disease to avoid discrimination and stigma.

Onu, who has contributed to the development of documents for the treatment, care and support for persons living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria and was recently the state clinic coordinator, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) AIDS Health Care Foundation, said access to care was a major issue for HIV patients in Nigeria.

“Access to care is a major issue right now for HIV because people do not prepare for this. It comes because people just wake up and become sick. They get tested (and become positive). If we can address issues concerning access to care, we would have been able to solve the majority of the major challenges.”

He said 80 per cent of primary health care centres in Nigeria should be able to provide services for HIV/AIDS.

Onu urged health care workers to always abide by ethical codes when attending to their patients, especially people with the disease.

According to him, the more hospitals are conducive for persons living with the virus, the more they will be willing to patronize the facilities.

Fielding questions on the confidentiality of HIV health status of individuals, he said it was wrong for marriage councillors to demand the result of a would-be couple as a condition for the approval of their union.

He said the church should only ask if the intending couple is aware of their health condition.

According to him, the church should not demand the result.

“That is why you see people who are very active in one church; when it comes to marriage, they go to another church. That is stigma.”

Responding to yet another question, Onu said health workers could go to jail for conducting HIV tests on anyone without the person’s consent.

He noted that the only condition warranting medical practitioners to carry out a test on anyone is after a rape case.

Meanwhile, the doctor said over 80 per cent of HIV treatment in Nigeria had been United States-donor funded. 

“The government of Nigeria puts virtually nothing into the pulse of HIV treatment and prevention. If it continues to depend on foreign donors, that will be a risk.”






     

     

    The United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) notes that 1.5 million people across the world were infected with HIV in 2021.

    The agency added that 650 thousand people died of AIDS-related illnesses that year.

    Nigeria ranks third among countries with the highest burden of HIV infection in the world. The 2019 Nigeria National HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey found that 1.9 million people lived with HIV and AIDS in the country as of 2018, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

    About 1.6 million were on treatment for the disease as of December 2021, the Director-General, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Gambo Aliyu, disclosed in an exclusive interview with The ICIR.

    Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's The ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022 and has been the organisation's News Editor since September 2022. Contact him via email @ [email protected].

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