….FG pledges to combat NCDs, HIV in Nigeria
The Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has vowed that it will address the dual challenges of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and HIV in the country.
Dr Anyaike Chukwuma, Director of Public Health in the ministry, affirmed this commitment on Wednesday in Abuja during the first annual APIN Public Health Initiative Symposium, themed “Integrating Non-Communicable Diseases and HIV to ensure long and quality lives for Persons living with HIV (PLHIV).
Chukwuma outlined a four-point agenda, emphasizing a holistic approach to governance, capacity development, health system strengthening, and financial measures.
He stressed the importance of collective engagement and expert contributions to ensure a healthier and higher-quality life for PLHIV in the country.
Dr Salma Anas-Kolo, Special Adviser to the President on Health, acknowledged APIN’s pivotal role in HIV care over 23 years.
Anas-Kolo highlighted the need for global integration and societal collaboration in HIV-related initiatives, emphasising the burden of non-communicable diseases and their additional costs associated with HIV infection.
Addressing the symposium, Dr. Barango Prebo, acting team lead for NCD at WHO Africa’s Regional Office, emphasised the significance of hypertension as an NCD risk factor in Africa.
Prebo expressed concern about the high prevalence of the disease affecting 1 in 3 adults, with 80 percent unaware or not receiving treatment, emphasizing the need for increased awareness and healthcare services.
Additionally, he pointed out distinctive challenges in Africa, such as the highest burden of cervical cancer among NCDs.
Addressing Nigeria’s challenging position with NCDs surpassing the global average, Prebo noted that premature NCD rates are at over 70 percent.
Prebo emphasised that its broader impact on the population goes beyond the poor due to limited access to treatment and healthcare services.
He underscored the urgent need for improved healthcare infrastructure in the region.
He highlighted the challenge of aligning medication distribution, especially for HIV and adjuncts like Atenol, across different time frames, stressing the importance of systematic monitoring.
While acknowledging integration efforts and the role of the WHO Committee on Essential Medicines, he raised concerns about restrictions on nurses at peripheral health facilities, indicating the necessity for healthcare system reforms and expanded roles for professionals.
Discussing decentralization and integration, he emphasized that strengthening policy levers is crucial for effective decentralized and integrated care.
He stressed the need for a comprehensive approach to address premature mortality from NCDs, emphasizing targeted policies and interventions based on insights from the prevalence of key NCDs and their risk factors among individuals dealing with HIV.
He highlighted the importance of considering mental health, given its direct impact on treatment outcomes.
He underscored the stress associated with HIV diagnosis and the correlation between mental health and sexual behaviors, advocating for a holistic healthcare approach.
He emphasized the significance of addressing the gap in reaching key populations for HIV and prioritizing mental health services.
He called for a transformative approach that recognizes the individual as a whole, allowing healthcare workers to integrate services effectively and address the double burden and co-morbidities between HIV and NCDs.
“This person-centered strategy,” he noted, “fosters a holistic and comprehensive healthcare model for improved outcomes.”
Earlier in his open remarks, Dr. Ayodeji Odutolu, Board Chairman, APIN, underscored the need for the country to factor in other diseases in the HIV and AIDS control programmes because of how they critically impact on HIV and AIDS.
Odutolu said that it was important that when the country talks about integrating non-communicable diseases in the management of HIV, there is a need to remove stigma.
APIN Public Health initiatives’ CEO, Dr. Prosper Okonkwo, said that the country should ensure quality lives for people with HIV regardless of co-morbid conditions.
Okonkwo said that over the years, APIN’s commitment to quality HIV programming has continuously evolved to address the health priorities of its clients.
“APIN is uniquely positioned to (independently and collaboratively) leverage its robust resources e.g. dedicated workforce, dynamic data management systems, care innovations like AVIVA app for cervical cancer, ensure optimal quality of life and healthy aging regardless of co-morbid conditions,” he said.
Okonkwo said that there was growing evidence that integrating HIV and NCD services would go a long way toward improving the efficiency and coverage of NCD care.
He, however, said it was critical to monitor and evaluate the integration delivery of HIV and NCD services, to determine the impact of integration on the quality of care.
“As HIV therapeutics advance, many of these patients are living into old age, increasing the burden of multimorbidity resulting from the aging phenomenon and possibly HIV infections and therapeutics.
“Our programme data shows that more than half of PLHIV patients under our care are over 40 years of age, with a high prevalence of hypertension, diabetes, and other NCDs such as renal diseases, cervical cancer, and mental health issues.
“In response to this emerging trend, APIN Public Health Initiatives should take measures to consolidate its current HIV-NCD service integration programme,” he said.
APIN is the leading implementing partner of the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention for the implementation of the US President’s Emergency Programme for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in Nigeria.
It started work in Nigeria in 2000 as a project of the Harvard School of Public Health with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which continued in 2005 with funding from PEPFAR up until this moment.
Over the years, APIN has evolved to be a fully registered indigenous public health-focused organization beyond HIV/AIDS.
Currently in its programme, it has over 380,000 active PLHIV who are receiving ART across our 460 supported health facilities in five states in Nigeria.
Furthermore, its warehouse, the Nigeria National Data Repository, contains patient-level data on 1,700,000 PLHIV receiving antiretroviral care in the country.