Senate President inaugurates Wellness Trust fund to combat HIV/AIDS – Saraki

The Senate President, Sen. Bukola Saraki, on Monday inaugurated the National Assembly Coalition Against HIV/ AIDS (NASSCOA) and the Wellness Trust Fund (WTF) to help combat the disease in Nigeria.

Saraki, who was represented by Sen. Ahmed Lawan, inaugurated the NASSCOA as part of activities to commemorate the World AIDS Day.

He said that the NASSCOA would be a multi-sectoral legislative platform for waging the war against HIV/AIDS in the National Assembly Community and the WTF to mobilise funds for the task.

According to him, the National Assembly shall continue to invoke its powers of appropriation under the constitution to ensure the provision of necessary resources towards the eradication of HIV.

“The United Nations statistics on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and related infections is very worrisome and the vigorous global response against the disease seems to be insufficient.

“Nigeria recorded the very first case of HIV just over 30 years ago, from this single case, we now have over three million people infected by the virus.

“More people die of HIV infection in Nigeria than in any other country in the world, with about 180 deaths every year and we also have the largest number of newly infected children,’’ Saraki said.

The Senate President said that Nigerians with HIV infection now live longer, can marry and have HIV free children.

He, however, said that more vigorous response was required to meet the 90-90-90 target of an AIDS free generation by 2030.

In his remarks, the Clerk to the National Assembly, Mr Mohammed Omolori, said that anti-retroviral treatment was still not available to all who need it.

Omolori said that prevention campaigns had still not been disseminated to the level needed and people living with HIV were still discriminated against.

He said that the National Assembly, being the custodian of the powers of appropriation, has great role to play in the facilitation and funding of the national response effort of the government.

The Clerk said that the NASSCOA and ETF would lead advocacy on resource mobilisation and promote partnership within and outside the National Assembly

“It would provide technical leadership and advocacy for the implementation of prevention, control and impact mitigation strategies for HIV/AIDS.

“It will encourage multi disciplinary collaborations and networking among stakeholders, organise training of personnel involved in the control and prevention of HIV/AIDS.

“It will also facilitate the provision of care, support and treatment of people living with HIV/AIDS in the National Assembly.’’

According to Omolori, the WTF will address the mobilization of funds for the prevention, treatment and care for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and incidental infections.

He said that the fund would also be used to for advocacy for the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS response at all levels.

The Chief Executive Officer, Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN), Dr Patrick Dakum,called for better technical production of antiretroviral drugs, condoms and test kits in the country to help reduce their cost.

Dakum, who was represented by Dr Young Oluokun, Regional Manager, IHVN, said the Nigeria would be using up its scarce resources  as long as it continued to import antiretroviral drugs.

“We need to invest more in HIV/AIDS in the country to be able to meet the 90-90-90- targets of eradicating the disease by 2030,’’ he said.

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