According to the United States Embassy Chargé d’Affaires (CDA), Kathleen FitzGibbon, Abia has the sixth highest HIV prevalence rate in the country, with an estimated 58,341 cases. FitzGibbon made the remarks on Tuesday in Umuahia, at a stakeholder meeting hosted by CDA in collaboration with the Catholic Caritas Foundation (CCF) and the Abia government.
The CDA, who led an interagency Mission Nigeria team to Abia, said the meeting also marked “the re-engagement of US assistance to the state, through its President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief,” adding that the US government will support renewed efforts to control the HIV epidemic in Abia.”
The United States will collaborate with state governments and other stakeholders to close the HIV treatment gap.”Within the next two years, we will identify and treat an additional 37,000 People Living with HIV (PLHIV) in Abia.”The United States is looking to Abia to lead and demonstrate a model of sustainable state ownership of the HIV response,” FitzGibbon said. “This will help to strengthen the partnership between the United States and Abia.”She also discussed the new US approach to assisting the state’s expanded HIV programme, urging stakeholders to play an active role in ensuring that all PLHIV are identified and placed on life-saving treatment.
FitzGibbon was overjoyed that “HIV was no longer a death sentence, as it was 20 years ago.”She stated that over 1.6 million Nigerians have been placed on treatment, adding, “If you start getting treatment, you will not die.”Also speaking, Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu blamed Abia’s high HIV prevalence on the fact that the state shared borders with seven other states with high prevalence rates.The governor, who was represented by his Deputy, Chief Oko Chukwu, stated that his administration had taken proactive measures to prevent cross-border transmission of the disease.Dr. Aliyu Gambo, Director-General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), has urged Aba entrepreneurs to demonstrate their mettle by manufacturing HIV vaccines.”Aba is well-known throughout the world for its ingenuity in the production of locally produced goods.” As a result, I challenge the people to use their entrepreneurial spirit to create HIV vaccines for Nigeria,” Gambo said.On behalf of CCF, Catholic Bishop of Umuahia Diocese, Most Rev. Lucius Ugorji, was represented by Auxiliary Bishop, Most Rev. Michael Ukpong, who thanked the United States for selecting the organisation to implement its HIV programme in the country.
“The Catholic Diocese of Umuahia has promised to do more to educate and inform the public about PLHIV as people who need help and support, not as people to be stigmatised, avoided, or abandoned,” Ugorji said.The US delegation included PEPFAR Coordinator Mark Giambrone, Dr Mary Boyd of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rachel Goldstein of the US Agency for International Development’s HIV/TB Office, and Dr Laura Chittenden of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
The meeting was attended by representatives of some health professionals, religious and traditional rulers, non-governmental organisations, and civil society organisations, according to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
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