Moses Emorinken, Abuja

In a bid to meet the UNAIDS target of ensuring that 95 percent of Nigerians know their HIV status by 2030, the Civil Society for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (CiSHAN), has started a campaign to reach 10 million people with HIV self-testing kits by the end of 2020.

The campaign will further lead to the identification of the newly diagnosed HIV positive individuals and linking them to treatment in partnership with the Lead Implementing Partners for each state.

The Executive Secretary of CiSHAN, Walter Ugwocha, made this known in Abuja on Tuesday, during a virtual media round table for the commencement of the national campaign for HIV self-testing in Nigeria.

He said, “The Nigerian AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (2018) results showed that Nigeria was lagging behind in achieving the 1st 95 of the 95-95-95 target by 2030. The lockdown arising from COVID-19 had also significantly decreased access of community members – general, key, and vulnerable population – to HIV testing.

“Prior to the lockdown, there had been challenges with thinking around how to address the gap with populations access to HIV testing and identifying the unreached HIV positive population.

“The need to evolve community-driven HIV testing strategies was further re-affirmed by the anecdotal field reports by CISHAN during the lockdown. CiSHAN had coordinated a national effort in partnership with Positive Action for Treatment Access (PATA), Association of Women Against AIDS in Nigeria (ASWHAN) and the Association of Positive Youth in Nigeria (APYIN) to work with identified community members/advocates in cohorts to deliver anti-retroviral drugs to PLHIV in need of it during the intensive phase of the lockdown. CISHAN volunteers identified multiple individuals who asked for where to get tested: a gap that could be addressed through access to self-test kits.

“The strategy is focused on creating awareness and demand for HIV self-testing in Nigeria. Through its over 5,000 members located in the 774 local government areas of Nigeria, CISHAN with the support of the media will facilitate access to HIV self-testing kits in both rural and hard to reach areas/populations. This campaign is a code-named HIV Self Testing Campaign: Getting 10 million Nigerians to know their HIV status through HIV Self Testing.”

He, therefore, urged the Federal Ministry of Health, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), and various state Ministries, Agencies, and Departments involved with the HIV/AIDS response to disseminate HIV Self Testing guidelines urgently.

Ugwocha stated that the test kits are available in major pharmacies across the country. He however said CiSHAN will be distributing the kits free of charge to targeted populations, and urged respected organizations like the Dangote Foundation and MTN Foundation to support the donation to pregnant women and indigent citizens.

“We also call on PEPFAR, Global Fund, and other donors to increase their commitment to HIV Self Testing in the country as a means of reaching the unreached populations most especially Adolescents and Young Persons and Key Populations.

“We call on all State governments to procure self-test kits and deploy the same to institutions of learning, churches and facilitates its use during outreaches to community members as a way to bridge the gap in HIV testing coverage especially during this COVID-19 era,” he added.

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