By: Obi Bright Chinweuba
HIV epidemic in Imo state and Nigeria is moving faster than the programmes established to address it, thus requiring an urgent and accelerated health systems response. This is so, despite modest progress in HIV prevention, treatment, and care across the approved hospitals in Imo over the last decade, the response to the HIV epidemic continues to face many challenges. With an aim to direct health policies towards the most effective interventions, the goal and targets of the Imo state ministry of health, in partnership with the Caritas Nigerian group, USAID and others; with a well laid Action plan against HIV in the state, are aligned to meet the Sustainable Development Goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
In the inauguration of the action plan tagged “SURGE”, the Honorable commissioner of health, Dr. Vincent Udokwu was ably represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry of health, Mr. G.E Nnah. The Commisioner in his address appreciated the PEPFAR/US-CDC and the other partner organization; Caritas Nigeria for their partnership with Imo state government in the fight against HIV epidemic in the past seven years and their willingness to go whole length with the state government in the finish line. The commissioner hinted that it is time to implement evidence-based approaches in tackling HIV/AIDs, through collaboration as well as whole-of-government and whole-of-society engagement, in line with the Rebuild Imo agenda of the governor of Imo state, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha.
The Action plan of the partnership advocates an urgent, accelerated health sector response to HIV in the state, to end the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030. It builds on the lessons learnt from the past statistics and provides a new framework for the next phase of the HIV response. It calls for fast-tracked action to stop the increasing rate of new HIV infections and reduce the public health burden of HIV. The Action plan promotes comprehensive, combination prevention and a “treat all” approach; services that follow the principles of universal health coverage; the continuum of HIV services; and the promotion of a public health approach, underpinned by strong political leadership and a partnership approach, particularly with people living with HIV (PLHIV).
Speaking during the event, the Eze Imo of Imo state, Eze Samuel Ohiri hinted that the implementation of the laid down action plans against the battle against HIV/AIDs should be given all the needed attention. “The implementation of this Action plan requires the establishment of strong governance processes, a whole-of-government approach with multisectoral engagement, and continuing political commitment and resources at the highest levels. This should include strong partnerships and the involvement of civil society, particularly PLHIV, to ensure that linkages across disease-specific and cross-cutting programmes are established and strengthened”, he said.
The Honorable commissioner of Health through his representative stated that the Government through the ministry of health has an important role to play in convening relevant groups through the health sectors and organizations, to support a coordinated and coherent health sector response to the HIV epidemic. In addition to this, the ministry of health will engage with multilateral and bilateral institutions, development agencies, civil society groups, research organizations, professional bodies etc to achieve this huge task.
Speaking at the colorful gathering, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Imo state on health, Mrs Estelle Onyekachi Mbadiwe stated that the partnership is one that the government has shown seriousness at. She made known that the Governor’s sincere interest on health related matters is a testament of the governor’s readiness to readily make available, grounds for robust health initiatives that will not only ameliorate the travails Imolites go through in accessing good medical attention, but to provide long lasting solution(s) to virtually all forms of factors/issues negating the delivery of good health to ndi Imo.