People living with HIV in Enugu state have been exempted in paying any form of charges while accessing medical treatment says Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, on Wednesday while speaking at the launch of Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) Surge Response in the state.
He said that his administration was “desirous of expanding the HIV Antiretroviral Therapy by enhancing case-finding through provision of more Rapid HIV Test Kits to enable new cases benefit from treatment programme supported by United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention”.
Consequently, the governor declared that “henceforth, all card fees, consultation fees and charges for basic laboratory investigations stand removed for people living with HIV to guarantee them financial access to HIV prevention and treatment services in Enugu State”.
The event which took place at the Government House, Enugu, was attended by key stakeholders in the health sector including the Consul-General, United States Embassy in Nigeria, Claire Pierangelo, Country Director of the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mahesh Swaminathan and a delegation from Caritas Nigeria led by its Executive Secretary/CEO, Rev. Fr. Dr. Uche Obodoechina.
The governor added that the state government will remove all barriers associated with finance, stigmatization and discrimination, which hinder HIV prevention and treatment in the state.
Gov. Ugwuanyi informed the audience that “Enugu State was one of the first few states in Nigeria to pass a law prohibiting stigmatization and discrimination against people living with HIV”.
According to him, “Our state agency for Universal Health Coverage is also developing comprehensive state health insurance scheme that will include HIV care services”.
The governor who recalled his insightful engagement with the US Consul General, Country Director, CDC and delegation from Caritas Nigeria, when the trio paid him a courtesy visit on Tuesday, to share thoughts on HIV prevalence and burden in the state as well as seek greater collaboration with the state government on HIV diagnosis, treatment, health facility upgrade, technical assistance, adequate staffing and capacity building for staff, declared his administration’s commitment and support to the noble cause.
In her speech, the US Consul General, Pierangelo, applauded Gov. Ugwuanyi for “your great support” to the fight against HIV scourge as well as other stakeholders for making the programme a reality.
She stated that they were in Nigeria to address pressing issues to guarantee that the country’s young generations live happily and have a productive life in order to face the challenges of economic development for a better future.
Also in his remark, the US Country Director of CDC, Swaminathan, said that the agency is making more efforts in partnership with government, World Health Organization (WHO) and other NGOs both in Nigeria and globally “to achieve our goal where we can have over 90% success of people who are accessing HIV treatment.”
He opined that “the goal will help in prevention of the disease”, saying: “By accessing treatment, you help yourself, you help your family, you help the public and you help the country and then you help the world; this reality is a small point but very important”.
In his presentation, the Executive Secretary of ENSACA, Dr. Uche Agu, who commended Enugu State government for passing the Anti-stigmatization Law, disclosed that the state is developing specific strategic plan towards taking ownership and reducing HIV burden in the state.
Dr. Agu added that the strategic programming and intervention would assist in stemming the tide, stressing that the current treatment surge approach is key to narrowing the treatment gap.