The COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria and the resultant lockdown have affected the treatment of people living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus in the country with over 540,000 patients currently in need of treatment.
SaharaReporters learnt that about six HIV laboratories in the country had been converted to COVID-19 testing, carrying out about 30 percent of the tests.
According to the 2020 Quarterly HIV Fact Sheet, released by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS and obtained by SaharaReporters, the Federal Government needs more than $2.4billion over the next three years to treat these 540,000 Nigerians living with HIV and AIDS.
The NACA factsheet added that due to the lockdown induced by COVID-19 and the rising number of COVID cases to attend to, the Anti-Retroviral Treatment initiation for HIV has dropped in the country from 39,450 to 21,495, representing a 45.5% decrease.
The factsheet said, “On the impact of COVID-19 on HIV response, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the provision of HIV services. There is a drop in viral load testing and clinical activities. There is a drop in the ART refill rate. Also, the six months’ interruption in HIV treatment due to lockdown may lead to 900,000 deaths as opposed to 430,000 deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“HIV infrastructure has also been deployed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic; about 25 to 30% of COVID-19 tests were conducted in six HIV mega labs. HIV sample transfer mechanism replicated for COVID-19 response in four states.
“We need to invest $2.4billion to identify and treat additional 540,000 People Living with HIV for epidemic control in the next three years.”
According to the United Nations’ statistics, 1,900,000 persons are living with HIV in Nigeria, with the prevalence rate of 1.5% among adults aged 15 to 49.
In 2018, 130,000 people were newly infected with HIV while 53,000 died from an AIDS-related illness the same year.
In Nigeria, there has been steady progress in the number of AIDS-related deaths since 2010, with a 26% decrease from 72,000 deaths to 53,000 deaths in 2018.
However, the number of new HIV infections have risen from 120,000 to 130,000 infected persons within the same period.