President Muhammadu Buhari launched a N62 billion trust fund yesterday in Abuja aimed at curtailing the scourge of the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in Nigeria. The fund would also help to place more people living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) on treatment annually.
Chief Launcher and Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, promised strong support for the private sector-led fund.
Speaking at the launch of the HIV Trust Fund of Nigeria (HTFN), Buhari pledged that his administration would continue to prioritise health interventions to address killer diseases and public health emergencies.
According to a statement by Special Adviser to the President (Media and Publicity), Femi Adesina, Buhari said, “Ending AIDS as a public health threat in Nigeria will require increased domestic funding. We have continued to make good our commitment of placing more people living with HIV on treatment annually using national resources.
“At the last United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS, I made a call for a renewed global action to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa.
”However, strong domestic resource mobilisation with an enduring partnership and shared responsibility is required to sustain the response to HIV and other emerging public health emergencies.”
Buhari noted that Nigeria’s focused partnership with the private sector in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic provided a readily available financing solution to leverage on to sustain the HIV response. He commended the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) and the Nigeria Business Coalition Against AIDS for their efforts in establishing the HIV Trust Fund of Nigeria to secure a generation of babies free of the virus.
Buhari also expressed delight at the attendance in person of key global players in the HIV response and notable private sector personalities at the event and the pledges made.
”Going forward, I hope the HIV Trust Fund of Nigeria will galvanise more of the private sector and other partners to surpass the target of N62 billion in the next five years,” the president added.
In his remarks, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, disclosed that since 2005, about $6.2 billion had been spent on HIV response in Nigeria.
Mustapha stated, ”About 80 per cent of the funds were contributed by external donors, mainly the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The private sector contributed 0.1 per cent to 2 per cent of total funds with the rest of funds provided by the Nigerian government.”
While acknowledging NACA’s efforts to promote resource mobilisation to complement existing external support, Mustapha said the federal government had sustained the treatment and financing of 50,000 People Living with HIV (PLHIV) annually. He said the launch of the HTFN would guarantee funding from private sector-led resources for HIV interventions, especially for the elimination of the Mother-to-Child transmission of the virus.
Dangote said the mission of the fund, proposed by NACA alongside the Nigeria Business Coalition Against AIDS (NiBUCAA), was to ensure mobilisation of resources towards eradication of AIDS in Nigeria, starting with the Prevention of Mother-to-Child transmission of the virus.
”I am reminded that we have two million of our compatriots living with HIV/AIDS and it is our collective responsibility to bring this number down to zero,” he said.
Dangote, who is Africa’s richest man, appealed to individuals and corporate organisations in the country to donate generously to the Fund.
”We would like the private sector to work in partnership with the federal government on a 50-50 basis, which we believe will help us eliminate Mother-to-Child transmission of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria,” Dangote said.
Chairman of Board of Trustees of the fund and Group Managing Director of Access Bank, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, in his remarks, said the aim of the initiative was to ensure sustainable mobilisation of resources from the private sector towards eradication of AIDS in Nigeria, beginning with the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of the HIV virus.
Wigwe stated, “We have a responsibility to safeguard the future of our country, our workforce, and our children yet unborn. With your support, we can change the narrative; put an end to mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Nigeria, eradicate AIDS and, ultimately, put a stop to the transmission of HIV in Nigeria.”
Wigwe said the HIV Trust Fund of Nigeria become imperative to help bridge the existing, as well as projected funding shortfalls that will occur once international donor funding began to exit.
According to him, the HIV Trust Fund “would be a unique opportunity to proactively take decisive steps to avoid a potential HIV/AIDS crisis in Nigeria.”
In his welcome speech, Director-General of NACA, Dr. Gambo Aliyu, thanked Buhari for his commitment and support for HIV response in the country. Aliyu said as a direct result of the president’s intervention, NACA now procured HIV commodities at manufacturers’ rate, and more Nigerians living with HIV had been placed on treatment from domestic resources.
He said within the last three years, the agency had identified and placed on treatment an additional 900,000 persons living with HIV, bringing the total number of Nigerians on HIV treatment to 1.7 million.
Aliyu stated, “This unprecedented feat puts Nigeria on a fast-track lane to control HIV spread by 2023. However, despite these achievements, our national coverage of prevention of mother-to- child transmission is less than 50 per cent, leading to about 22,000 cases of mother-to-child transmission of HIV every year in the country.”
The director general said providing life-long treatment to all PLHIV even after successfully stopping new HIV infections would require a domestically sustainable financing mechanism.
Key development partners present at the unveiling of the fund included Executive Director, UNAIDS, Ms. Winnie Byanyima; Executive Director, Global Fund, Mr. Peter Sands; and US Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard.
Other members of the fund’s Board of Trustees are Managing Director of TotalEnergies Exploration and Production Nigeria, Mr. Mike Sangster; Chairman, Board of Trustees of Dangote Foundation, and President of the Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; Managing Director, The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) and Country Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria, Engineer Osagie Okunbor; Managing Director/CEO, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, Dr. Lars Richter; and Director General of NACA, Dr. Gambo Aliyu.