Abortion Exclusion To US Aid Threatens HIV Battle, Scientists Warn


Scientists and activists warned Friday that anti-abortion conditions attached to US aid under the Donald Trump administration threatened programmes to halt the spread of HIV.

Stipulations approved in Washington in May last year deny US aid to organisations which provide abortion information, referrals, or services – even with their own money.

This includes grants from PEPFAR, the programme set up under former president George W Bush in 2003 and now a major funder of HIV testing, counselling and treatment worldwide.

New rules under the policy dubbed “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” denies funding even to organisations that advocate for abortion services, International AIDS Society (IAS) president-elect Anton Pozniak said in Amsterdam.

Formerly known as the Mexico City policy, but commonly called the “global gag rule”, the conditions already applied to family planning clinics in the US.

“Now, under the Trump administration, it applies to almost all US global health bilateral assistance, including PEPFAR,” Pozniak told journalists on the final day of the 22nd International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam.

“The reach of this policy has been greatly expanded, and has the potential to roll back progress on HIV.”

The provisions mean that clinics which provide services such as HIV testing and family planning, must rescind US funding if they also provide abortion services, counselling or even referrals.

It will be too late

Jennifer Kates of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health research NGO, said the altered policy “will likely affect hundreds of recipients” of US funding.

It is too early to quantify the effects.

“Some of the greatest harms of the global gag rule will not be measurable… until it’s too late to reverse course,” said Chloe Cooney of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Clinics have already started to cut staff, some closing altogether, said Tikhala Itaye of the “Global She Decides Movement”, an activist group for women’s rights.

“Some of the girls accessing family planning services or contraception now cannot have those services,” she said.

Activists at the conference cited the global gag rule as one of many reasons for insisting that the IAS reconsiders its decision to host the next AIDS conference in San Francisco.

“No AIDS conference in Trump’s America,” said a coalition calling itself AIDS 2020 for All.

“The US government bans the entry of sex workers and people who use drugs, has criminalised immigrants and detained activists at airports, has denied HIV care to people in prison and immigrant detention centres,” it charged in a statement.

But Pozniak said the IAS was “committed to moving forward.”

“We’ve had conferences in many places of the world where there are issues,” he said.

Inconsistent Data Affecting FG’s Efforts On HIV/AIDS Control, Says Minister

Health Minister Suspends Eight Top NHIS Officials
File Photo


The Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, says inaccurate data of people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria has negatively impacted on Federal Government’s efforts to control the spread of the disease in the country.

The minister made the observation at the signing of a 20 million dollars funding, for the Nigeria HIV/AIDS indicator and impact assessment survey.

The minister, however, expressed confidence that the new deal will assist the government in planning its approaches to eliminating HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.

He noted that an accurate survey will be carried across the 36 states of the federation with a view to ascertain the actual number of people living with the disease.

The survey is also expected to eliminate the huge barrier to planning which includes the lack of accurate data; hence the U.S government needs the support of all for the survey to succeed.

In 2015, the National Agency for the Control of HIV/AIDS (NACA) estimated HIV prevalence in Nigeria at 3.03 million. The agency also reported a drop in new infections rate from 130, 295 in 2010 to 104, 388 in 2015.

These figures, however, have become obsolete for effective planning.

Accurate data is arguably crucial for effective planning and distribution of resources to combat the spread of the disease and with the signing of this agreement, it is hoped that the Nigeria Government will have reliable data to plan, going forward.

Police Arrest ‘Fake’ Doctor Accused Of Infecting 46 Indians With HIV

FILE PHOTO: Indian villagers and relatives mourns as they gather around the coffin of killed Indian army soldier Havaldar Roshan Lal at Nichla village, in Samba district, about 45km from Jammu, on February 5, 2018. PHOTO: Rakesh BAKSHI / AFP

Indian Police on Wednesday arrested an unlicensed doctor accused of infecting at least 46 people with HIV by re-using a syringe, the latest case to expose the paucity of healthcare in the country of 1.25 billion.

Police in Uttar Pradesh tracked down Rajendra Yadav, who provided cheap door-to-door medical services to poor villagers, after a filing a criminal case against him over the spread of the infection in the northern state’s Unnao district.

“He was arrested on a tip-off and is being questioned about his role in the case,” Unnao police chief Pushpanjali Devi told AFP.

Yadav is facing initial criminal charges of impersonation and endangering human lives, the officer said.

Medical instruments were recovered from his possession are being sent for forensic tests.

India has only limited public healthcare services and that, combined with a lack of regulation, has allowed unlicensed doctors to thrive, particularly in rural areas.

The latest case was exposed when government medical screenings uncovered a high concentration of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases in the district.

“All these 46 cases are from specific localities within our district,” Unnao’s chief medical officer S.P. Choudhary told AFP.

“This is when we decided to dig deeper. Some of the infected blamed the quack and his use of a single syringe.”

But Choudhary said the high number of cases was unlikely to be down to Yadav alone.

“We don’t think that the quack doctor alone could be a factor for these numbers,” he told AFP.

“The area has a high migrant trucker population, and the prevalence of unprotected sex could be the likely reason.”

India has 2.1 million people infected with HIV, according to the United Nations, although the rate of infection is falling.

It has an estimated 840,000 doctors — one for every 1,674 people — far fewer than the one per 1,000 people recommended by the World Health Organization.

Last week the government announced a national healthcare scheme for half a billion people but did not give details of how much it would cost or how it would be funded.

India spends a little over one percent of GDP on public healthcare — one of the lowest proportions in the world — a sum the government is aiming to increase to 2.5 percent by 2025.


Campaigners Incensed At Failings In Africa AIDS War

Angry AIDS activists are urging western and central Africa to step up the fight against HIV, saying millions of people, especially children, are at risk from complacency and underfunding.

A six-day conference in Africa has thrown a stark light on the problems in a region whose two dozen nations extend from Mauritania in the north to Gabon in the south, and include some of the poorest countries in the world.

Coalition Plus, an alliance of AIDS groups, said AIDS-related deaths in western and central Africa are running at 5.1 percent, more than twice the 2.1 percent in the rest of the continent.

The region accounts for just six percent of the global population, but has at least 16 percent of the total of the world’s adults — categorised as people aged over 15 — who live with HIV.

The share rises even more dramatically, to 25 percent, in the category of infected children aged from birth up to 14 years.

Even though the HIV pandemic is more than four decades old, nearly 80 percent of the estimated 540,000 infected children in West and Central Africa are not getting life-saving antiretroviral therapy, the UN’s children’s agency UNICEF and AIDS programme UNAIDS said on Tuesday.

“HIV and AIDS pose direct threats to the lives of 820,000 children and adolescents,” they said in a report issued at the ICASA conference which ends on Saturday. “Yet we know what works.”

– ‘Scandalous’ rise in youth mortality –

In 2016, an estimated 60,000 children were newly infected with HIV in West and Central Africa, it said.

Among adolescents aged 15-19, AIDS-related deaths are on the rise. Among the 10-19 age group, 16,000 people died last year, a rise of 35 percent over 2010.

“The rise in youth mortality is a scandal,” Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s director for West and Central Africa, told AFP.

“Most of these teenagers are unaware of their HIV status,” she said.

“Everyone is responsible. Support from international donors is insufficient for the region’s needs. And governments must give priority to the fight against AIDS, even if they have limited resources,” she said.

The situation is not entirely bleak — the region slashed mother-to-child transmission of HIV by a third from 2010 and 2016 — nor is it the same everywhere.

– 1.3 million awaiting treatment –

Adult HIV prevalence ranges from less than 0.4 percent in Niger to 6.2 percent in Equatorial Guinea, the figures show. Nearly half of all infected children in the region are in Nigeria.

But the major problems are common, say experts.

One is the lack of so-called point-of-care HIV tests, so that a patient can be diagnosed and immediately treated — a major step in prevention.

Another is availability of antiretroviral drugs, which suppress the virus but do not eliminate it.

The cost of AIDS therapy has plummeted since the first triple-therapy drug regimen became available in 1996, and access to the lifeline — taken in a simple once-a-day pill — is spreading across parts of Africa.

In West and Central Africa, though, 1.3 million people who know they have HIV are still awaiting treatment.

Stigma and discrimination, as well as homophobia, are factors that help the virus to spread underground.

“We have to shift up gears, to that of ’emergency response,’ we have to mobilise all of society — government, civil society, families,” said Poirier.


Smokers With HIV Far More Likely To Die Of Lung Cancer – Researchers

People who are infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and smokes are far more likely to die from lung cancer than HIV, researchers said Monday.

“Having HIV and using tobacco may together accelerate the development of lung cancer,” warned the report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine.

Smoking reduces life expectancy among people living with HIV — and undergoing antiretroviral therapy to keep their disease at bay, more than HIV itself, it added.

The findings are of particular concern because smoking is so common among people with HIV.

The prevalence of smokers among the population of people with HIV is 40 percent, about twice the rest of the United States population.

“Smoking and HIV are a particularly bad combination when it comes to lung cancer,” said lead author Krishna Reddy, a doctor at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

“Smoking rates are extraordinarily high among people with HIV, and both smoking and HIV increase the risk of lung cancer.”

Almost 25 percent of people who adhere well to anti-HIV medications but continue to smoke will die from lung cancer, said the findings.

People with HIV who take antiviral drugs and also smoke are from six to 13 times more likely to die from lung cancer than from HIV/AIDS, it added.

But there is hope for those who manage to quit.

Among smokers who quit at age 40, only about six percent will die of lung cancer, according to the study, which is based on projections using a computer model.

“Quitting smoking is one of the most important things that people with HIV can do to improve their health and live longer,” said co-author Travis Baggett, also of Massachusetts General Hospital.

Nearly 60,000 of the 644,2000 people aged 20-64 living with HIV and receiving care are expected to die from lung cancer by age 80 if smoking habits do not change.


Ignorance, Fears Hinder Fight Against HIV – Edo SACA

Ignorance, Fears Hinder Fight Against HIV - Edo SACAThe Edo State Action Committee on AIDS (SACA) has said that being tested positive for the Human Immune Virus (HIV) is not a death sentence.

The Project Manager of Edo SACA, Mrs Marietu Binkola, stated this at an event to mark the 2017 National HIV Testing Day in Benin City, the Edo State capital.

She identified ignorance and fears as some of the major factors hampering the fight against the disease across Nigeria.

“The only issue here is how members of the public can know that testing positive for the disease is not a death sentence; that one can still live a long and fulfilled life and that testing negative is not also a license to engage in anyhow lifestyle,” Binkola said.

She stressed further that although HIV does not have any known cure yet, increased awareness and voluntary tests by members of the public could drastically reduce the spread of the disease and the number of deaths resulting from it.

On his part, the National Coordinator of Civil Society against HIV/AIDS, Dr. Bright Oniovokukor said lack of adequate data was a major challenge to monitoring the fight against the spread of the disease.

“Data remains a challenge and it is so because many people are not coming out to know their status voluntarily. More so, there are villages across the country that lack access to health facilities; how can you generate data from such areas? he asked.

U.S. Awards Grants To Children Orphaned By HIV/AIDS

The U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria on Friday announced a 2.9 million Naira micro-grant to 50 women caregivers, to support the economic wellbeing of their families, particularly the vulnerable children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in five local communities in Apapa local government area of Lagos.

Under the U.S. Ambassador’s PEPFAR Small Grants Program, a local non-governmental organisation, Blissful Life for Women and Children, will provide training to the beneficiaries of the micro-grants in the areas of business and vocational skills and trade mentorship, and will receive trade articles and supplies.

Ten older orphans and vulnerable children whose parents are living with HIV will also benefit from the training.

Blissful Life for Women and Children is one of 27 local organisations that have received funding under the U.S. Ambassador’s PEPFAR Small Grants Program in the fiscal year 2017.

At an event held in Lagos and attended by senior local government officials, health, and community leaders, Acting U.S. Consul General Will Steuer said: “The people and government of the United States continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Nigeria and Nigerian families in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

“Today’s event highlights the importance of supporting families, especially children who are affected by HIV/AIDS through programs that not only support treatment for the infected, but also to improve the socio-economic wellbeing of families affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, as the PEPFAR Small Grants Program seeks to do.”

Beneficiaries of the various training programs are expected to empower themselves and their families by building small businesses that will create more reliable income flows and improve their standard of living.

The U.S.-Nigeria partnership on HIV/AIDS began in 2004 through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

From 2004 to 2016, United States support for HIV prevention, care, treatment, and support programs in Nigeria has totalled more than 4.3 billion U.S. dollars in support of the Nigeria HIV/AIDS response.

All Hands Must Be On Deck To Prevent HIV/AIDS – NACA

hiv virusAll hands must be on deck to scale up the prevention of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, especially government intervention and support to persons living with the disease.

This was the challenge from the acting Director General of the National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA), Mr Kayode Ogungbemi, as Nigeria prepares to mark the annual World AIDS Day.

Mr Ogungbemi explained that out of the one million persons targeted yearly for intervention and treatment, the federal government is only able to handle 100,000 cases, with 90% dependent on donor countries and agencies.

He said this during a special church service at the Cathedral Church of the Advent, Life Camp, Abuja, which was held for the management and staff of the NACA.

The event coincided with the 27th anniversary of the church and was the first of series of events lined up to mark the AIDS day, coming up on Thursday, December 1, 2016.

With the theme, “Hands Up For HIV Prevention”, the focus of this year would be to explore strategies for HIV prevention, known to be cheaper and safer than cure.

The Director General stressed that despite the successes recorded in the treatment of persons living with HIV/AIDS, there is still much to be done to scale up prevention.

Bishop of the Anglican Primate Of Nigeria, Reverend Nicholas Okoh, also advocated faith for persons living with the disease, saying that their fate could change for the better.

Alongside intensified research, other areas that the agency seeks to pay more attention to include HIV testing and counseling, voluntary medical male circumcision, prevention of mother to child transmission, use of condoms, treatment, zero discrimination, among others.

HIV Prevalence Rate Below 2% In Nigeria – NACA

NACAThe National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA) says Nigeria has done well with funds it received from the World Bank Assisted Project towards the elimination of the HIV/AIDS virus which presently stands at below 2% prevalence rate.

The Director, Partnerships Coordination of NACA, Emmanuel Alhassan, gave the statistics in Calabar, the Cross River State capital, at a HIV Programme Development Project retreat (HPDP 11) held by staff of NACA.

NACA staff from various departments and units gathered to look at the work plan that it has with the World Bank Assisted Project towards ensuring that it meets the project development objectives within the timeline it has.

And with just about eight months to the end of the timeline, appraisal on how the funds were utilized towards eradicating the virus became necessary.

According to Alhassan, the retreat would help team members rebuild strategies on how to provide better services to infected patients and possibly get a zero prevalence rate latest by 2030 if the intervention from World Bank is renewed.

Deputy Director, Partnerships Coordination, Dr. Funke Oki, said that NACA has gone a long way in this fight even in the face of challenges but a lot still needs to be done.

The present World Bank Assisted Project is expected to end in February 2017.

Nigerian Navy Offers Free Medical Care In Maiduguri IDP Camp

medical services, Nigerian NavyThe Nigerian Navy, as part of their diamond jubilee celebrations are offering free medical services to displaced people in Maiduguri.

The free medical services named Medical Rhapsody, held in Dalori1, a selected Displaced People’s camp in the state capital.

Dalori1 is one of the 22 government-recognised displaced people’s camps within Maiduguri, the Borno state capital.

One of the beneficiaries is a mother of four abducted girls, Falmata Mustapha, battling with diabetes without medication since she fled from insurgents in her hometown, Bama.

The medical outreach was a lifesaver for her as money and drugs or the correct diet to control her condition have been out of her reach.

The Navy offered free drugs for the treatment of malaria, blood pressure check for the elderly and pregnant women, deworming for children, as well as multivitamins among others.

Part of the activities also included public health lectures by the naval medical team on topical issues such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, environmental, personal and oral hygiene.

The gesture was mentorship-oriented, intended to stir up ambition in younger ones from the benefitting communities.

Meanwhile, the Borno State government, again pleaded with the armed forces to consider recruiting members of the youth vigilante assisting in the insurgency war.

Deputy Governor, Usman Durkwa, made his request to top ranking officers of the Nigerian Navy.

He said that the Borno State government was worried about the fate of the teeming jobless youths when the insurgency war is brought to an operational end with their services no longer required.

Some of the youth vigilante volunteers also known as the Civilian Joint Task Force are also anxious about getting jobs to confront poverty.

Experts Decry Stigmatisation Against HIV/AIDS Patients

hiv virusThe National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA) says discrimination against people living with HIV remains a major challenge to eliminating new infections.

This is coming one year after the National HIV and AIDS Anti-discrimination Bill was signed into law.

The Director-General of NACA, Professor John Idoko, lamented that continued discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS was an obstacle to achieving the 90% reduction of new infections and death by the year 2030.

Professor Idoko made the remarks at a gathering to unveil the popular version of the HIV and Aids Anti-discrimination Law in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

The Country Program Manager, AIDS Health Care Foundation, Adetayo Towolawi, said the event was organised to enable less educated people living with HIV/AIDS know and enforce their rights.

The National Secretary of the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWAN), Abdulkadri Ibrahim, also said that despite the enactment of the law, discrimination is making access to treatment difficult for their members.

Group Decries High Level Of Discrimination Against HIV Positives

HIV-and-AIDS-in-AfricaA coalition of Civil Society Organizations has advocated for the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS.

The group, on Saturday, insisted that discrimination at workplace is on the rise.

At the presentation of the 2016 National Stigmatization Report in Abuja, members of the group said that over 73% of HIV positive individuals have continued to experience discrimination in schools and work places in Nigeria.

They called on government and employers of labour to stop the discrimination against people with HIV.

The HIV and AIDS Anti-discrimination Bill was signed into law in 2015.