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Expert Identifies Impediments To HIV/AIDS Response

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Amidst several challenges currently facing the South-South Zone of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) in HIV response, the Coordinator of the Zone, Dr Uduak Daniel, has identified two key challenges.
Speaking during a recent two-day strategic media engagement refresher and NACA South-South Zonal awards, Dr Daniel stated that the challenges were the institution of State Agency for the Control of AIDS (SACA) Boards in all States of the Zone, and provision of necessary fund to enhance implementation of programmes.
She explained that although these challenges have not stopped the zone from recording notable achievements, they have made progress more difficult.
While noting that much have been achieved, she said, “challenges still exist, one of which is the fact that we still need the SACAs to have boards.
“We also still need to ensure that resources are allocated to the SACAs so that they can play their coordinating roles the way that they are supposed to do. Despite the challenges and hiccups, we’ve been able to push through in the South-South HIV response”.
According to her, two key areas the zone recorded successes were in strengthening of structures in SACAs in the zone, and also enabling them to function without boards.
Another area that the zone recorded success, according to the zonal boss, was in strategic media engagement process, which was the essence of the meeting in Port Harcourt. Dr Daniel stated that strategic networks such as the media has helped the HIV response in the State and the South-South Zone.
She explained that during the two-day event, the media had been sensitised on how to frame their reports to go beyond mere reporting.
“The media practitioners in the states and in the zone have now been empowered with knowledge and skills to frame their messages beyond just reports. They now know how to better frame messages so that they can facilitate behavioural change among those they reach out to”, she said.
Speaking earlier, the Head of Research, Monitoring and Evaluation, Rivers State Agency for the Control of AIDS (RIVSACA), Dr. Isaiah Mac-Moses, said the State Government is committed to the prevention of HIV/AIDS in the State, noting the importance of data generation.
“Now the programme is evidence-based. So, there’s no programme without statistics. My office consistently provides evidence for programming. That’s why you see that in Rivers State all the Local Governments do not have the same prevalence”, he said.
On his part, the State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, noted that the Ministry has over the years partnered with both the Zonal NACA and RIVSACA towards eradicating HIV.
The Commissioner, who was represented at the occasion by the Director, Public Enlightenment, in the Ministry, Mr Celestine Ogolo, further assured on the Ministry’s readiness to partner with NACA and RIVSACA.
“Over the years we’ve been partnering with the Zonal and State offices of NACA. But if there’s any role to be worked on for improvement, all the parastatals of the Ministry are still open to you. We welcome more partnership, and all our platforms are still available to you for use so that this campaign and enlightenment against the HIV/AIDS pandemic will get to the grassroots even more”, he said.

By: Sogbeba Dokubo

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WHO Raises Alarm Over Viral Hepatitis Epidemics, STIs

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) says viral hepatitis epidemics and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are causes of  2.5 million deaths each annually.
According to a new WHO report titled,” Implementing the Global Health Sector Strategies on HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Infections, 2022–2030,” STIs are increasing in many regions.
In 2022, WHO had targetted of reducing the annual number of adult syphilis infections by ten-fold by 2030, from 7.1 million to 0.71 million, but new syphilis cases among adults aged 15-49 years increased by over 1 million in 2022 reaching 8 million. The highest increases occurred in the Region for the Americas and the African region.
Combined with insufficient decline seen in the reduction of new HIV and viral hepatitis infections, the report expressed doubt  to the attainment of the related targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
“The rising incidence of syphilis raises major concerns”, said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Fortunately, there has been important progress on a number of other fronts including in accelerating access to critical health commodities including diagnostics and treatment.
The WHO DG said tools required to curb these epidemics as public health threats by 2030 are available, but that there’s need to ensure that, in the context of an increasingly complex world, countries do all they can to achieve the ambitious targets they set themselves”.
Increasing incidence of sexually transmitted infections four curable STIs – syphilis (Treponema pallidum), gonorrhea (Neisseria gonorrhoeae), chlamydia (Chlamydia trachomatis), and trichomoniasis (Trichomonas vaginalis) – account for over 1 million infections daily.
The report notes a surge in adult and maternal syphilis (1.1 million) and associated congenital syphilis (523 cases per 100 000 live births per year) during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022, there were 230 000 syphilis-related deaths.
New data also show an increase in multi-resistant gonorrhoea. As at 2023, out of 87 countries where enhanced gonorrhoea antimicrobial resistance surveillance was conducted, 9 countries reported elevated levels (from 5percent to 40percent) resistance to ceftriaxone, the last line treatment for gonorrhoea. WHO is monitoring the situation and has updated its recommended treatment to reduce the spread of this multi-resistant gonorrhoea strain.
In 2022, around 1.2 million new hepatitis B cases and nearly 1 million new hepatitis C cases were recorded. The estimated number of deaths from viral hepatitis rose from 1.1 million in 2019 to 1.3 million in 2022 despite effective prevention, diagnosis, and treatment tools.
New HIV infections only reduced from 1.5 million in 2020 to 1.3 million in 2022. Five key population groups men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, sex workers, transgender individuals, and individuals in prisons and other closed settings still experience significantly higher HIV prevalence rates than the general population.

By: Kevin Nengi

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WHO Targets One Billion For Better Health

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) says it is tar-geting 1 billion more people to enjoy better health and wellbeing will  by 2025.
The plan, it said is  driven primarily by improvements in air quality and access to water, sanitation and hygiene measures.
Meanwhile, the body has listed it achievements in a  Report of  2023, the most comprehensive to date.
The report showcases achievements of key public health milestones by the world health apex agency even amid greater global humanitarian health needs driven by conflict, climate change and disease outbreaks.
The report is expected to be released ahead of the 2024 Seventy-seventh World Health Assembly, which runs from 27 May, 1st June, 2024.
WHO revised Programme Budget for 2022–2023 was US$ 6726.1 million, incorporating lessons learned from the pandemic response and addressing emerging health priorities.
With 96percent of WHO country offices providing 174 country reports on achievements, the report shows some progress towards 46 targets and highlights some challenges.
“The world is off track to reach most of the triple billion targets and the health-related Sustainable Development Goals,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “However, with concrete and concerted action to accelerate progress, we could still achieve a substantial subset of them. Our goal is to invest even more resources where they matter most at the country level while ensuring sustainable and flexible financing to support our mission.”
The report shows advancement in several key areas, including healthier populations, Universal Health Coverage (UHC), and health emergencies protection.
Related to healthier populations, the current trajectory indicates the target of 1 billion more people enjoying better health and well-being will likely be met by 2025, driven primarily by improvements in air quality and access to water, sanitation and hygiene measures.
In terms of UHC, 30percent of countries are moving ahead in coverage of essential health services and providing financial protection. This is largely due to increased HIV service coverage.
Regarding emergencies protection, though the coverage of vaccinations for high-priority pathogens shows improvement relative to the COVID-19 pandemic-related disruptions in 2020–2021, it has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.
The Pandemic Fund’s first disbursements totaled US$ 338 million in 2023, supporting 37 countries to fund the initial response to acute events and scale up life-saving health operations in protracted crises. WHO continues to work with countries and partners to enhance genomic sequencing capabilities and strengthen laboratory and surveillance systems worldwide with capacity increased by 62percent for SARS-CoV-2 between February 2021 and December 2023.
It said one of the achievements is the world’s first malaria vaccine, RTS,S/AS01 administered to more than two million children in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi during the biennium, reducing mortality by 13% among children eligible for vaccination. WHO’s prequalification of a second vaccine, R21/Matrix-M, is expected to further boost malaria control efforts.
The first-ever all-oral treatment regimens for multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis were made available in 2022, allowing the highest number of people with tuberculosis to get treatment since monitoring began almost 30 years ago.

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‘Current Health Insurance Coverage Not Big To Cover Formal Sector’

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The current insurance coverage in Nigeria has been described as not sufficient to cover the formal sector.
A body known as Health Watch Nigeria in its quarterly report indicated that significant non-compliance, especially within the private formal sector is being witnessed.
It proferred that, “ enforce the provision of health insurance, the government could link employee health insurance benefits to public procurement by the private sector.
Additionally, the authorities could explore multi-sectoral partnership by establishing a joint enforcement committee with the Pension Commission (PENCOM), which also seeks to enforce the Pension Act. This joint enforcement would reduce the cost of enforcement and ensure the NHIA can leverage PENCOM’s experience in enforcing social protection.
Among other things it recommended the  enforcement of the Minimum Package of Health Services insisting that ,” all health insurance schemes aim to achieve financial protection, and designating what should be covered to guarantee this financial protection is a fundamental duty of the regulator as prescribed by the Act.
It, however, frowned that different social health insurers sell varying products that differ in coverage and cost from the basic minimum package of healthcare services prescribed by the NHIA through the BHCPF guideline.

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