Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has commended the United States Government for working with the State Government to reduce the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the State.
The Governor in a statement released by Simeon Nwakaudu, his Special Assistant on Electronic Media, while receiving the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Stuart Symington, at the Government House Port Harcourt on Tuesday during a high profile meeting on the promotion of the health of Rivers people, praised the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) administered by the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), U.S. Department of Defense, and U.S.
The Agency for International Development (USAID) is implementing an Antiretroviral Treatment (ART) surge program in Rivers state to identify and provide treatment to approximately 180,000 PLHIV who have not previously received such.
Governor Wike thanked the Ambassador and the US Government on the initiatives, saying:
“I want to thank the Government of the United States for working with the Rivers State Government to reduce the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. “I thank the United States Government for recognising the contributions of the Rivers State Government in the fight against HIV/AIDS “.
Stating further, Governor Wike assured the United States Government that his administration will continue to fund programmes that will reduce the prevalence of the healthcare challenge.
“We will continue to work for the reduction of HIV/AIDS in the state. We are glad that we are partners with the US Government. For us, health is key. Education is key. With Education, you can talk to people on measures to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.
“At present, with the support of the United States Government, we are running 115 sites to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS “, he said.
He said that the health programmes of the Rivers State Government are yielding results as the immunisation statistics of the state has moved from 54percent to 82 per cent.
Speaking further, Governor Wike thanked the United States Government for insisting that votes count in Rivers State during the last General Elections. He said that the United States Government ensured that democracy survived in the country, even though it came under threat. This comes a few weeks after the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike announced that the Rivers State Government will pay the user-fees for People Living with HIV/AIDs in the state to access free treatment.
In his remarks, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Stuart Symington said the U.S. government’s $75 million budget increase for HIV control activities in Nigeria, with about $25 million allocated for the ART surge activities. Ambassador Symington thanked Governor Wike for announcing his intent to eliminate user-fees for PLHIV.
The U.S. delegation was in Rivers state to advocate for the elimination of user-fees for all people living with HIV, antenatal care charges for pregnant women living with the virus, and other barriers hindering PLHIV from accessing health services. The Ambassador emphasized Governor Wike’s pronouncement serves as an example to other states and the federal government to eliminate such user fees.
On August 19, Ambassador Symington paid a similar visit to Akwa Ibom state governor Udom Emmanuel. “The United States remains committed to supporting Nigeria as it works to reduce and ultimately eliminate the scourge of HIV/AIDS among its people,” Ambassador Symington said.
He noted the increased funding to make antiretrovirals available would enable more people living with HIV to lead healthy, productive lives until the day a cure for the virus is found.
The Ambassador noted that disbursement of the additional PEPFAR HIV funds is contingent upon Nigerian federal and state governments reducing or eliminating financial barriers to PLHIV access to services, in particular fees charged by healthcare facilities for non-essential services or those already provided by PEPFAR.