ABUJA — The UNAIDS Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima, has met the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari to discuss the country’s response to the colliding pandemics of HIV and COVID-19. The meeting was part of Ms Byanyima’s three-day visit to the country, which also included visits to communities on the frontline of the response and events to mark International Women’s Day on 8 March.
During their meeting, Ms Byanyima thanked Mr Buhari for being an early champion of the People’s Vaccine campaign, which is calling for a fair and equitable distribution of vaccines against the coronavirus to ensure that poorer countries are not left behind in the response. Nigeria began to vaccinate frontline health workers last weekend after taking delivery of 4 million doses of vaccine, facilitated through COVAX, the international mechanism set up to bulk buy vaccines and distribute them equitably worldwide. Of 300 million vaccine doses administered worldwide so far, most have been administered in just 10 countries.
She also applauded the country’s progress against the HIV pandemic and said UNAIDS stood ready to strengthen its partnership with Nigeria to further reduce the impact of the HIV pandemic and end AIDS as a public health threat as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“Nigeria has made good progress on expanding the delivery of HIV testing, treatment and care services over recent years, contributing to a steep decline in AIDS-related deaths,” said Ms Byanyima. “I look forward to reinforcing UNAIDS’ partnership with government, communities and all other stakeholders to drive new HIV infections down and kick-start a decade of action to end AIDS as a public health threat for everyone.”
There were 1.8 million people living with HIV in Nigeria in 2019 and 1.3 million people know their HIV status. Around 1.1 million people are now on HIV treatment to keep them alive and well. AIDS-related deaths have fallen by more than a third over the past decade, although HIV infections have declined at a more modest rate.
During her visit, Ms Byanyima also met community activists, who have been instrumental in minimizing the disruption to HIV testing, treatment and care services despite the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken to contain it.
On Monday, Ms Byanyima took part in events to commemorate International Women’s Day hosted by the Federal Minister of Women’s Affairs, Pauline Tallen. Ms Byanyima stressed the importance of women’s leadership and participation at all levels of decision-making to ensure that issues of importance to women, such as ending gender-based violence and expanding access to essential services, including health and education, were addressed.