By Joy Odor
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Telecoms infrastructure giant (IHS) Nigeria has donated 70,000 rapid test kits to the Bayelsa state government in support of the state’s efforts to eradicate the HIV/AIDS epidemic and improve healthcare.
At the donation ceremony, Mr. Babatunji Odelola, who lead the Integrated Service Delivery function of USAID’s HIV/AIDS Team, said the contribution from IHS Nigeria, a subsidiary of IHS Towers, an international telecommunications infrastructure provider, will augment the Bayelsa HIV/AIDS program’s capacity to find more unidentified people living with HIV.
He said the test kits will support prevention of mother-to-child transmission services within antenatal clinics and provide critical HIV testing services to numerous young children and others who are at risk.
Mr Odelola urged the state government to maximize the opportunity that the test kits afford them by encouraging the people of Bayelsa to get tested for HIV.
“If found to be HIV positive, they can access life-saving treatment through USAID’s partners,” referring to antiretroviral therapy provided to Nigerians through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
“As part of its efforts to enhance engagement of the private sector in Nigeria’s health sector, USAID facilitated the contribution from IHS Nigeria to help eradicate HIV and AIDS in Bayelsa State.
“We encourage other private sector partners to explore opportunities for engagement with PEPFAR, USAID, and government entities in similar development partnerships to improve the health and well-being of Nigerians, laying the foundation for a strong and vibrant economy”stressed.
Contributing, the Associate Director for Government Relations with IHS Nigeri was of the opinion that as the world celebrates World AIDS Day, it is clear that managing the magnitude of all health crisis is a concerted response.
“This is a clarion call to collectively come together and forge partnerships.
“This partnership between USAID and IHS symbolize that working together is critical to build a safer, healthier world” he noted.
In his speeche, the Bayelsa State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Pabara Newton Igwele said the test kits will help the state improve its healthcare indices in the area of HIV and AIDS.
“No government alone can fund healthcare. “We are happy and ready for this great partnership with USAID and IHS. “We are happy and ready for this great partnership with USAID and IHS” he said
The United States, through PEPFAR, supports 80 percent of all HIV/AIDS treatment services provided in Nigeria.
About 1.9 million Nigerians are living with HIV/AIDS, according to the U.S.-supported Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS) of 2018.
As of September 30, 2020, USAID tested over three million Nigerians for HIV in 2020 and initiated 142,000 people on antiretroviral therapy.
USAID provides comprehensive HIV treatment services to more than 400,000 Nigerians.
Additional USAID HIV programming delivers lifesaving HIV medicines to 1.1 million people throughout the country and supports over 500,000 children and family members orphaned or otherwise impacted by the virus.