The Zonal and National Consultative Forum on Ownership for Sustainability for HIV in Nigeria came to a close on the 16th of February 2012 with strong calls for the Nigerian Government to increase its commitment to HIV funding. The event which started on the 13th of February with two joint zonal meetings culminated with the dissemination of the recommendations from the zonal meetings to key government functionaries. Present at the event were the Chairman House of Representative Committee on AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria and the Special Senior Assistant to the President on MDGs. Other key invitees including the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Ministers of Health and National planning were represented at the event.
The National Coordinator for the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN) Mr. Edward Ogenyi speaking during the forum stated that sustainability is about funding and building local capacities. He said that commitments have been made in the past including the 2001 Abuja Declaration of 15% budgetary allocation to Health by African leaders and former President Obasanjo’s pledge to treat 250, 000 persons living with HIV. Mr. Ogenyi drew the attention of the attendees to the fact that of the about 400, 000 persons receiving ARV in the country, over 300, 000 are supported by donor funding. He mentioned President Jonathan’s declaration that the Federal Government would fund 50% of HIV programmes by 2015.
Mr. Edward asked what was the disconnect between all these pledges and their actualization. He called on the government to do more to see that the downward trend of the embarrassing health indices in the country is reversed. He advocated that the anti-stigma bill for persons living with HIV be at least passed into law before the +10 Abuja Conference as Nigeria should be seen to lead other African Countries in creating an enabling environment for HIV programmes to thrive.
The Chairman House of Representatives Committee on AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Dr. Haruna Kigbu stated that as a parliament, legislators are of the opinion that the HIV indices of the country are abysmal and degrading. He particularly quoted the rate of new infections and people requiring anti-retroviral drugs. He mentioned that over 85% funding of HIV is donor-driven and therefore unacceptable. He also said that the Nigerian government must improve in funding the fight against the epidemic.
He however applauded the government for the giant steps which have been taken so far including the establishment of an Agency for coordinating the HIV response and subsequent establishment of agencies in 30 states. Dr. Kigbu said the legislature will work closely with the Speakers in the Houses of Assembly in the remaining states without HIV/AIDS agencies to see that these are established. According to Dr. Kigbu, the discussion on increasing in-country financing should also keep in mind the question of how well we have done with HIV funds in the past. The mobilization of more resources will have to bring accountability to the fore, he said. The Chairman announced that legislators are ready to work with NACA on innovative financing and would help follow-up the executive on commitments already made to HIV. He however cautioned that although everyone wants to see HIV funding go up, that the country works within a financial envelope and government is constrained to work within that envelope.
Dr. Kigbu called on the MDG office to also support NACA with more funding and advocated for the merger of the National AIDS and STIs Control Programme (NASCP) of the Ministry of Health with NACA for effectiveness and more outputs. He declared the readiness of the legislators to amend the NACA Act when NACA finalizes deliberations on pertinent issues. He also appealed to development partners to bear with the slow pace of funding from the government and give to Nigeria more time to improve.
The Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on MDGs Dr. Precious Gbeneol agreed with the Chairman House Committee on ATM that the harmonization of NASCP and NACA would make them more effective. She saluted NACA for foresight in planning and executing the forum accordingly. Dr. Precious said that the fight against HIV is yielding fruits as the epidemic has decreased progressively and that the forum is of great significance as we inch closer to the MDGs deadline of 2015. She mentioned the activities of NACA as instrumental for the successes recorded so far but recounted the challenges which still persist including the epidemiology and funding gaps. According to the SSA, these raise the imperative for taking ownership and sustainability and the need to address the issue of producing anti-retroviral drugs and rapid diagnostic test kits locally.
She stated that there is paucity of funds for HIV globally and hence several innovative mechanisms to mobilize funds are already in operation around the world. She hinted the importance of thinking of how to bring the private sector in and announced that in line with this thought, she has scheduled a meeting with the minister of trade and investment.
Other speakers who spoke at the event include the representatives of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Minister of Health and Minister of National Planning. The Minister of National Planning in his speech read by a representative said that the nation should find a common national position on ownership and chart a course for sustainability. He mentioned the goals of the National Vision 20/20:20 plan with regards to Maternal Health and Life expectancy. According to the Minister, the health indices continue to remain below average due to lack of ownership, information and utilization of services. Enhancing the health infrastructure, health database, national health plans and a basket approach to health funding were instrumental to development according to the Honourable Minister of National Planning.
The Honourable Minister of Health in his speech read by a representative mentioned the encouragement of community financing and instituting an HIV package in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). He urged the legislators to appropriate more funds to HIV and called for the need to work out more support and care for people living with HIV.
The representative of the SGF recognized the huge challenges which exist with regards to ownership and sustainability and pledged the support of government to help bridge the gaps in funding HIV programmes in the country. He thanked the development partners and other stakeholders for their contributions.
The issues raised during the discussions session include:
- How to update existing records of spending and epidemiology with private sector data
- How to strengthen the health system down to the grassroot level
- How to strengthen monitoring and evaluation system, reduce the number of tools and integrate it with the hospital records system
- Institution of electronic data entry platforms at Primary Health Care level
- Defining the functions of National HIV/AIDS Fund (NAHAF) to avoid role conflict with NACA
- Exploring the possibility of utilizing existing structure such as the Federal Inland Revenue Service for resource mobilization
The consultative forum was organized by the Resource Mobilization Department of NACA headed by Dr. Emmanuel Alhassan and supported by UNDP and USAID.