– Say 17, 000 HIV Positive People Not On Treatment
– Groups Mischievous – OSACA
By Solomon Odeniyi
SCORES of Non-Governmental Organisations, working on the control of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), have raised alarm over nonavailability of HIV test kits in the State of Osun.
According to the NGOs, save for the private hospitals and laboratories, Osun has been without HIV test kits since January this year, a situation that poses serious threats to the fight against the spread of the virus.
Findings by OSUN DEFENDER revealed that the last HIV test kits procured by the state government through the Ministry of Health were exhausted in December, 2019.
The test kits were part of the Save One Million Lives project in the state in 2019, it was learnt.
It was gathered that when the HIV test kits became scarce across the state, implementing partners on HIV/AIDS like the Association for Reproductive and Family Health (ARFH) and Prime Health Initiatives (PHRI) donated some test kits to the Local Agency for the Control of HIV/AIDS and managements at some of the Primary Health Centres in the state for sometimes.
Speaking with OSUN DEFENDER, the Coordinator of Civil Society Organisations on HIV/AIDS (CISHAN) in the state, Mr. Tunde Omole, said Osun had been experiencing dearth of HIV test kits since 2018, disclosing that the situation became worse in late 2019, when the kits were no longer available at all.
Omole said the NGOs working on the HIV/AIDS at a time resorted to getting the test kits from neighbouring states with personal money.
He stated: “We have been facing the problem – nonavailability of HIV test kits – for two years. Then, we did not have enough, but as at about late last year, there was no test kit available around Osun. Most times, we resort to going to other states and sometimes, go as far as using our personal monies to do procurement.
“Most of our Primary Health Centres are out of the test kits and that is the first point of call for any medical service delivery.
“Whether we like it or not, Osun still has relatively very high incidence of HIV in Nigeria. We have some key population, key towns that have higher than the average of the whole state. The entry point to the treatment of HIV is to know your status and the only way you can know that is by having tests done.
“If you don’t go for tests, you can’t know your HIV status. That puts almost everybody in the society at risk and that has been the challenge in the State of Osun.
“Before now, almost everywhere in Nigeria, you get tested for free. But by the time you don’t have test kits, the people have to go to private facilities for tests at a very exorbitant rate and that can discourage people. That can be one of the factors that would make the spread of HIV very high in the state and it is not good.”
Omole said about 100 groups scattered around all the local governments areas of the state were involved in the control of HIV/AIDS.
Asked where the NGOs usually get the HIV test kits, Omole said: “We used to get the test kits from the Osun State Agency for the Control of Aids. It is the coordinating agency for HIV/AIDS activities in Osun. Once in a while, we also get from the Risk Control Programme Unit at the State Ministry of Health. But now, we do not have anything from OSACA.
“We asked them, they said they do not have resources to procure. Naturally, according to HIV programming, test kits are supposed to be available through these channels and they are meant to be for free as long as you are reporting all the activities you are doing to them and make sure you do the right documentation.”
Omole said the nonavailability is an unhealthy omen in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS in the state, noting that the virus could be more prevalent if people do not know their status because they do not have access to test.
Responding to Omole’s claim, the Executive Secretary, Osun State Agency for the Control of AIDS, (OSACA), Dr. Monsur Bello, said there is no iota of truth in the report that there was not test kit in the state.
Bello said: “The NGO people are not being truthful. We give them test kits when we have. But when they get support from people supporting them, do they make reports to OSACA? When was the last time they gave reports to the state government through OSACA or Ministry of Health on their HIV activities? We know they have been doing activities but are they reporting to us?
“If we have test kits, we have to prioritise who to give. When we have in abundance, we do give to the NGOs because they go outside and do outreach. But when we have fewer test kits, we give to the hospitals and centres that are treating people on HIV. He who comes to equity must come with clean hands.
“They are talking about 2018 because that was the time we had World Bank support project. We were funding them and giving them money then. That does not mean we have not gotten money after that. But the money we got was not to support NGOs; it was to do critical things.”
However, OSUN DEFENDER visited the State Specialist Hospital, Asubiaro, Osogbo to find out the availability of the HIV test kits.
The HIV test was conducted for two different people in the presence of the media.
When called to crosscheck facts, Omole said: “What we have in Asubiaro is an NGO-supported scheme. Asubiaro has a development partner working with them; it is called Association for Positive Initiative in Nigeria. They are NGOs that have received support of global fund to implement HIV activities in the State of Osun.
“If you get to Hope Clinic at Asubiaro, they have facilities there. And you can get services only within their facilities. You cannot use it anywhere else. What of those in Iragberi and other parts of the state who are unable to get to Osogbo?”
He said about 17,000 HIV positive people were not on treatment as he spoke yesterday.