10th December 2019
It is with every sense of duty that we are gathered today to address a matter that is of a very special concern to us as a State. We are here to launch another phase of the fight against the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the State. Indeed, according to John Locke, the English Political Philosopher, “The welfare of the people, is the supreme law.” This principle, somehow is the guiding light of the “Rebuild Imo Agenda” of the present Imo State government. We are disheartened by the statistical report on the prevalence of HIV in the state. As a responsible government, we are challenged to doing something about it.
2. We are aware, that on the 14th of March, this year, President Muhammadu Buhari released the report of the recently concluded National AIDS Indicator Impact Survey (NAIIS 2018). According to the report, HIV prevalence in Nigeria reduced from a previous
3.0 percent to 1.4, going by Antenatal Sero-prevalence Surveys conducted in the 36 states and the FCT in 2014. Sadly, Imo State was among the seven priority states which contributed to over 60 percent of the burden of HIV in Nigeria. Indeed, HIV prevalence in Imo State, even though it showed a significant reduction from the 2014 average of 3.0 percent, the State’s 1.8 percent prevalence rate was far above the national average of 1.4 percent. This is not acceptable.
3. Sequel to this report, we quickly mobilized resources and immediately charged the Ministry of Health and engaged the support of our partner agencies to address this trend. The immediate result is that the State has already been able to find and place on treatment about 16,000 PLHIVs. Certainly we are committed to achieving the USAIDS target of 90:90:90 which aims at controlling the epidemic by September 2020. It involves a concerted push for epidemic control, tagged HIV ART Surge. This is a battle we are committed to fight and one, we are prepared to win.
4. To this effect, therefore, the Imo State Government makes the following STATEMENT OF COMMITMENT.
i. We are committed to finding the yet be identified 38,000 Persons Living with HIV and to put same on life-saving Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) until Undetectable viral level equals Un-transmissible (U = U). We also pledge to give due attention to the recommendations of the ART Surge Consortium that will assist in finding the over 38,000 persons.
ii. Consequently, I mandate all MDAs and institutions – including the Universities and polytechnics – to ensure the sensitization of their staff, students and wards on the need to know their HIV status. Being mindful of the metropolitan nature of our Universities, I urge them to serve as gatekeepers in this health service efforts by screening all year-one students using the risk stratification checklist and appropriate referral.
iii. We hereby, also declare zero tolerance to all forms of stigma and discrimination of persons living with HIV. Similarly, the State will support the procurement of all the necessary kits and consumables as provisions have already been made in the 2020 Budget.
iv. I would like to underscore the key role and partnership of the Local Government Councils in the funding of processes required for the identification and placing on treatment of the target persons. Indeed, all the 38,000 persons we are seeking to reach, in the end, are spread across the Local Government Areas of the State. So, the Local Governments must join the efforts.
v. Above all, Government hereby abolishes all user fees and charges of any kind for HIV services. Subsequently, the State government, in partnership with the Local Government Councils, shall provide funds for direct payment to all facilities recognized for providing HIV services in the state. Any health worker in the recognized facilities found to charge fees for HIV services would be penalised.
vi. Furthermore, we hereby mandate as well as appeal to all pregnant women to attend ante-natal clinics and get an HIV test to know their status. In the same vein, all HIV positive pregnant women shall, henceforth, be required to deliver in health facilities. This is to ensure the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and that no child in Imo state, henceforth would be born with HIV.
vii. At this juncture, I urge the consortium to develop the modalities and strategies for the implementation of these commitments. In furtherance of this, we invite all public spirited individuals, philanthropists and organisations at home and in the diaspora, to support and partner with the State Government in this HIV/AIDS control response.
5. On the strength of the foregoing, it is, therefore, my pleasure to formally launch the IMO STATE HIV ART SURGE RESPONSE.
6. Finally, on behalf of the people and government of Imo State, we convey our sincere gratitude to the USAID, the US Embassy, the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC), Caritas – Nigeria and other great associates in this grand partnership. Rest assured that we shall do everything within our powers to achieve the set target in this all-important campaign.
7. I thank you all for your attention and God bless.