Akwa Ibom State has witnessed a significant drop in prevalence of HIV from 10.8% (ANC Survey 2013) to 5.5% (NAIIS 2018) indicating that 5.5% of people aged 15-64 years estimated to be infected with the virus.
This brings the total number of persons living with HIV in Akwa Ibom State to 178,051 out of which 52,780 persons are currently on sustained Antiretroviral treatment. A significant number of persons in the State are yet to know their HIV status and 125,271 persons infected with HIV will need to be diagnosed and placed on lifelong therapy.
The latest development was made known by National AIDS Indicator Impact Survey (NAIIS).
The recently improved epidemic control effort in Akwa Ibom State has been supported by the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through USAID that has been partnering with Akwa Ibom State Government through its Ministry of Health and relevant agencies to implement HIV prevention and control strategies in the past decade.
According to the recent NAIIS report, an effective Surge management structure has been put in place to drive epidemic control under the leadership of the State Ministry of Health and in partnership with USAID supported implementing partners.
This response also receives support from the Akwa Ibom State Agency for the Control of AIDS (AKSACA) and relevant Civil Society Organization (CSO) networks including the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN) and Civil Society for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (CISHAN).
As part of US effort to further bring the epidemic to the barest minimum in Akwa Ibom State, The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart W. Symington visited the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel with his team to further consolidate the US government support to Nigeria on health and social development.
On his recent arrival to Akwa Ibom through the Arch. Victor Attah International Airport, The US Ambassador, Symington was received by FHI360, the USAID Lead implementing partner in the State as well as the Akwa Ibom Network of People living with HIV/AIDS (AKNET).
The US Ambassador was elated by the welcome remark of a 7year old girl who presented him with a welcome bouquet. Going further to demonstrate widespread awareness of AIV/AIDS in Akwa Ibom State, the girl disclosed to the Ambassador that she and her 5 siblings are HIV negative though being hybrids of HIV positive parents.
This feat was made possible only through the USAID HIV program – Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) facilitated through the State Ministry of Health and FHI360 supported health facilities. The Ambassador congratulated the mother and child with such a grin of joy and embrace.
Similarly, implementing partners in the State led by FHI360, CDC and USAID team met with the USAID Mission Director, where implementing partners shared compelling achievements and progress made in Akwa Ibom State with support from Governor Emmanuel Udom.
Highlights of the achievements presented were: the 61,048 currently on treatment for antiretroviral therapy in the State, they also shared the goal of improving HIV testing coverage to ensure all HIV positive individuals in the State are tested and placed on treatment.
Also, Surge strategy and other initiatives implemented in the State were highlighted.
The USAID Mission Director Stephen Haykin, in his remark opined that to tackle stigma and resistance from HIV/AIDS, there is need for treatment saturation and further collaboration with private sector to reach more persons who may be living with HIV .
On August 19, 2019, the US Ambassador and his team embarked on health facilities tour in the State and his first point of call was Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Health, to view the HIV/AIDS Situation room as renovated by FHI360 with support from USAID.
The Situation room houses real time data from supported health facilities in the State. He appreciated the State government for their collaboration with implementing partners in the areas of extensive trainings of health workers and SMOH staff, procurement of equipment, drugs, consumables and commodities.
The Honorable Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong in his remark disclosed the zeal of the State Government that has risen to the challenge to eliminate HIV/AIDs epidemic.
“The State has made tremendous strides to renovate health facilities to world class structures to be able to address stigma and increase acceptance in line with increasing treatment saturation”, Says Dr. Ukpong.
The visiting team also proceeded to Methodist Hospital, Ituk Mbang where the Honorable Commissioner introduced the Medical Superintendent and her team as they took a tour of the hospital from the consulting room to pharmacy, medical records and laboratory.
From the data presented at the facility, there was significant improvement in the number of individuals initiated on HIV treatment post Surge activity implementation compared to pre surge.
Later on, the Honorable Commissioner led the team to a visit of the Ibom Specialist Hospital in Uyo. The US Ambassador in his remark, appreciated the State government for investing in initiatives that support the people of the state.
He stated that the US Government is in Akwa Ibom to support the State in keeping the people healthy specially to support the state to ensure that no one is infected with HIV and if anyone is infected, to provide adequate treatment for them.
The team finally moved to the Government House for a meeting with His Excellency, the Executive Governor of the State, Mr. Emmanuel Udom.
At the meeting, the US Ambassador in his speech, lauded the support of Akwa Ibom State Government in addressing the epidemic of HIV/AIDS, Symington emphasized that he is in the State to launch USG most important effort – to save lives that would have otherwise been lost.
He further said his focus is to ensure everyone living with HIV know their status for appropriate treatment and retained on treatment. He also stated that if the team of USG and Akwa Ibom State government achieve this, it will further showcase the State government’s commitment in paying premium to the health and well being of his people.
In his remark, the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Emmanuel Udom expressed sustainable commitment to work with implementing partners to achieve epidemic control in the State within the stipulated period.
A gala night was organized in honour of the outgoing US Ambassador to Nigeria in acknowledgement of his contributions to the State and Nigeria in general.
The gala night was well attended by Past and present Akwa Ibom State functionaries, stakeholders in the Health sector, Heads and leaderahips of Organistions, among others.
On the retine of the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart W. Symington to Akwa Ibom State were; USAID Mission Director – Stephen Haykin, Nigeria PEPFAR Coordinator- Mark Giamborone, CDC Nigeria Director- Mahesh Swaminathan, USAID team – Dr. Chris Obanubi, Moses Katbi.
Others were; FHI360 Nigeria Country Director – Dr. Salma Anas-Kolo, SIDHAS Chief of Party – Satish Raj Pandey, and SIDHAS DCOPT- Dr Hadiza Khamofu.