The Federal Government of Nigeria has expressed plans to work with the United Nations for the local production of antiretroviral drugs in the country to ensure sustained treatment for the 3.4 million Nigerians living with HIV.
According to a statement, the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, SAN said on Wednesday while receiving the UNAIDS Country Director, Dr. Bilali Camara in his office that, “Certainly the capacity exists in Nigeria to be able to produce those drugs for Nigerians, and the whole of west and central African countries. And we certainly can contribute to see how that happens.”
Camara, who led a delegation from UNAIDS Nigeria office/Focal Point for ECOWAS, had informed the Vice President that about four Nigerian pharmaceutical companies have been preferred by the World Health Organization already as potential local manufacturers of the antiretroviral drugs. Once those companies start to produce the drugs, Nigeria would not need to depend on foreign supply and importation as is currently the case. That in turn is expected to improve access to the drugs by those infected by the virus.
While commending the UNAIDS for its efforts towards the eradication of HIV/AIDS in the country, Prof. Osinbajo stated that the federal government will explore the specific areas that it might be able to support the pharmaceutical companies in Nigeria who are able to locally manufacture the HIV drugs.
He praised the UNAIDS for keeping its eye on the ball and remaining focussed in the fight against the disease, expressing hope that working together, both the Buhari administration and the UN will be able to achieve the HIV/AIDS eradication targets in the country.
Stating that the administration will look for a way to make a difference in healthcare generally and fight against HIV specifically, the Vice President assured that the government will find the resources to fund healthcare, especially concerning the HIV/AIDS epidemic in spite of its challenging financial conditions at the moment.
Earlier the UNAIDS Country Director requested the support of the Vice President as Chairman of the National Economic Council, NEC to ensure an increase in domestic funding for AIDS in order to sustain the national AIDS response and end AIDS in Nigeria by 2030.
He also asked that the federal government maintain its commitment to reduce maternal and child mortality in the country, a request embraced by the Vice President who noted that the Buhari administration would surely pay attention to both issues.
Prof. Osinbajo also explained that there are many challenges involved in maternal and infant mortality that the administration will “deal with in different ways. It is a matter of life and death, and we certainly must pay attention to it.”
While 170,000 HIV/AIDS related deaths were recorded last year including 18% children, about 800,000 people living with HIV are currently on the antiretroviral drugs at the end of last year.