The Civil Society for HIV and AIDS in Nigeria has decried the scarcity of HIV test kits and consumables in Gombe State.
The scarcity of HIV test kits, the group said, is causing strangulation of HIV/AIDS response in Gombe, adding that the target of 95-95-95 status by 2023, and ending AIDS by 2030 could be hampered.
Speaking during a media briefing held at the weekend as part of efforts to commemorate the 2022 World AIDS Day with the theme; Equalise to end AIDS,’ Gombe State Coordinator, Bashama Yusuf, urged the State Government to empower the Gombe State Agency for the Control of AIDS with needed resources to tackle HIV prevalence.
According to him, less than five organisations in the state are conducting HIV screening, stressing that it could be linked to a lack of test kits.
Yusuf said, “HIV/AIDS response starts first with you knowing your status. How do you know your status, you must get tested. How do you get tested there must be test kits, and there must be consumables. Now those test kits are not there, the consumables are not there.
“The Agency in charge of coordinating the response is strangulated as it can’t deliver on its mandate and responsibilities. If we don’t have commodities how will people know their status, you are targeting 95 per cent of the population by 2023 and 95 per cent of those who know their status to be on drugs, and 95 per cent of those who have their drugs to reach suppression level.”
The CiSHAN Coordinator queried current statistics of HIV/AIDS in the state adding, “The data we are working with how are we sure it is accurate since we are not testing? The more we test people the more we know how many people we have and the need to plan for them. Only 30 per cent of the budget is released at the end of the day to GomSACA.”
“We call on the government to look critically into increased investment in HIV/AIDS response in the state. There should be increased budget allocation, with corresponding releases to ensure that Gombe State reaches and sustains epidemic control as targeted,” Yusuf said.
On his part, Muhammed Sabo, Gombe State Coordinator of the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, commended the State Government for launching the anti-stigma law.
He. however, lamented the challenge of implementation, while also accusing the government of discriminating against his members.
He said, “for the past four years we have been trying for our members to be employed by the government, but they refused to engage them. Government is the one stigmatising us”
Also speaking, North-East zonal Coordinator of CiSHAN Ahmed Yusuf, urged GomSACA to liaise with the government towards the timely purchase and use of test kits.
“Those in the State Agency for Control of AIDS should follow up because there was a commitment from the government that they are ready to support and buy the test kits. I’m using this opportunity to beg GomSACA to go to the government to ensure the test kits are bought and put into use.”