By AZOMA CHIKWE
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
The 5th National Conference on HIV/AIDS promises to bring together a wide range of stakeholders including researchers, physicians and other healthcare workers, people living with HIV/AIDS, media professionals, policy makers, government officials as well as representatives of civil society organization.
The conference is expected to provide a forum for interaction
and sharing of information and best practice amongst stakeholders,
to penetrate issues for debate to inform policy formulation,
to promote evidence based decision – making informing
future plans and to reflect on lessons from Nigeria’s
experience to in form the global response.
Briefing the press, Chairman organizing committee of the 5th National Conference on HIV/AIDS, Dr Oni Idigbe said that when the HIV/AIDS pandemic broke out, people thought it was a health sector problem, but when it started affecting people in the labour force, schools and so on, we realized that it is not a health sector problem alone.
“When ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo came in 1999, we tackled the issue not as a health sector problem but a national issue. In 2004, we held the 4th National Conference on HIV/AIDS to review the impact of our war against HIV and AIDS. Between 2004 and now, we have had Prevention from Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV/AIDS, antiretroviral (ARV) programme, and from the angle of finance we had the support of United States Presidential Emergency Relief Fund for Africa (PEPFAR) and other agencies.
“Now, during this 5th National Conference on HIV/AIDS, we want to look at our national response, we want to bring all stakeholders together and look at our progress together. One big issue is the global economic recession which is threatening the funding of our fight against HIV and AIDS, because we have seen that 90 percent of HIV funding is by global partners. If because of the economic meltdown, the global partners reduce their support or not increase it despite cases of new infections leading to increase of infected people, how do we cope?
“If the donor agencies go tomorrow, how can we support the fight against HIV? If they reduce their support or begin to decline in their support, how do we cope? These are some of the issues we are going to look into at the conference.
Giving insight into the conference plan, he said, “we
are going to start in the morning with plenary sessions where
politicians and opinion leaders will come and talk. Followed
by other sessions. We have three days the conference. Theme
for Day 1 is “Ownership”. All the planning session,
leadership session will address that.
“Day 2 theme is “Prevention, treatment, care and support, all the sessions will address that issue that day. Day 3 theme is community response.
“We are going back to presentation, preventing new cases from occurring. We started from prevention, but as soon as care and support started coming in, our preventive strategies started sliding. For one case treated, five new cases are emerging, so the United Nations theme is prevention.
“At the end of the conference, we will come up with a report that will be advocacy tool. We have the corporate bodies that support HIV/AIDS, that should be part of our national response. The state government and federal governments are already supporting.
“In this conference, all the stakeholders are involved – National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), State Agency for the Control of AIDS (SACA), National AIDS Control Programme (NASCP), Network of People Living With HIV and AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), Non-governmental organizations, Faith-based organizations and other stakeholders are carried along and will participate.
Contributing, Dr Ernest Ekong, Vice Chairman, of the organizing committee disclosed that the conference will showcase a lot of research works. A lot of research work has been done in the area of HIV/AIDS, research work in best practices, vaccines and all that. Some of our traditional medicine practitioners will come in to say a few things.
“It is a conference that will showcase Tuberculosis
(TB) and its relationship to HIV, it will showcase malaria
and how it affects HIV, we are going to look at all these
“Most of the funds that we are using to fight HIV/AIDS are from outside, we are going to ensure that we can sustain the systems on ground and improve on it,” he said.