Multi-pronged approach essential to eradicating HIV/AIDs epidemic - USAID

 USAID emphasizes the importance of a multifaceted approach to reducing the HIV/AIDS epidemic.


Dr. Angeli Achrekar, Deputy Executive Director of Programs and Assistant United Nations Secretary-General at the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, believes that eradicating the HIV/AIDS epidemic will necessitate a multifaceted strategy. 


She made the statement during the National Agency for the Control of AIDS's 2024 Nigeria HIV Prevention Conference in Abuja. 


According to her, the purpose of HIV prevention is to eliminate new HIV infections and make wise investments that will eventually lead to a reduction in the number of people requiring treatment and its associated costs.

Achrekar stated that the worldwide HIV response has had enormous success, with 86% of the 39 million individuals living with HIV knowing their status, 76% receiving life-saving antiretroviral treatment, and 71% virally suppressed. 


"AIDS-related deaths have been avoided thanks to significant investments in health-care systems and understanding of the critical role of communities in the fight against AIDS. We've also witnessed progress in addressing cultural barriers and enablers of HIV, bringing numerous nations one step closer to eliminating AIDS as a public health hazard by 2030. 


"Why, therefore, should we discuss HIV prevention? We are not on track.

"Despite the availability of a wide array of effective HIV prevention tools and methods and a massive scale-up of HIV treatment in several countries within recent years, new infections among adults globally have not decreased sufficiently as expected," she added. 


According to global data, around 4,000 people and children will be infected with HIV every day in 2022, for a total of 1.3 million new infections. 


She stated that significant work is required to meet the worldwide target of less than 370,000 new HIV infections per year by 2025. 


"Despite its effectiveness, HIV prevention continues to get little funding. Only 42% of sub-Saharan African districts with high HIV incidences have dedicated HIV prevention initiatives.

"We consequently need to accelerate advances in HIV prevention. HIV prevention is both a moral duty and a practical, cost-effective public health policy. 


"Let us remind each other that no single prevention tool or approach can end the HIV epidemic on its own. 


"Several approaches and interventions have proven highly effective in reducing the risk of HIV infection and protecting against it, including male and female condoms, the use of antiretroviral drugs as pre-exposure prophylaxis, voluntary male medical circumcision, 


"Behavior change interventions to reduce the number of sexual partners include the use of clean needles and syringes, opiate substitution therapy, and HIV treatment to reduce viral load and prevent onward transmission," she explained.

Achrekar stated that established solutions for protecting specific populations against HIV, such as important populations, adolescents and young people, women, and other priority populations, should be identified and prioritized. 


"Over the years, we have observed three interconnected reasons that underpin the failure to scale up effective prevention programs: a lack of political commitment and, as a result, insufficient investment; a reluctance to address sensitive issues related to young people's sexual and reproductive needs and rights, key populations, and harm reduction; and a lack of systematic and sustainable implementation of prevention programs.

"We know that putting communities at the center of HIV prevention initiatives improves their effectiveness. Community-based programs resulted in a fourfold increase in consistent condom use among at-risk populations. "We need to continue to provide communities with the resources they require to succeed," she said. 


She noted that the coverage of prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV services has remained poor in Nigeria, with only 30% of eligible women in the country receiving them. 


"Nigeria is one of the countries experiencing the slowest drop in new HIV infections among children. In 2020, Nigeria had the greatest number of new HIV infections among children in the world, accounting for 14% of the global total.

"I believe that money is not currently a serious barrier to Nigeria's PMTCT program. We would like to see continued and vigorous efforts to attain the degree of PMTCT program scaling required to satisfy the eMTCT targets. 


"The future of Nigeria's children cannot be left unchecked; concentrated and immediate action is required to avoid youngsters being doomed to a lifetime with a virus that is now avoidable. To achieve an AIDS-free generation in Nigeria, we must eliminate the epidemic's vertical transmission," she concluded. 


Achrekar advocated for immediate action to address the disparities that fuel the AIDS epidemic.


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