As a person who shares in this epidemic, it is becoming more worrisome and frightening for many people living with the HIV virus in Nigeria.
I remember some years back in the early 2000s, we were buying ARVs and paying for medical investigations. Most people could not afford it because the majority of PLWHA were out of jobs even up until this day. Many still cannot get employment with companies or industries because of pre-employer screening which includes the big HIV testing after which most were denied employment.
Hope was given to most of us who could not buy or access treatment when the international donors came with free drugs and treatment of OIs. It was still like yesterday when many lost their lives due to lack of medication.
I can give a hand count of people I gave home care to that passed on due to lack of quick intervention. Today it is happening again. Some of us might have to lose our friends, children, families and colleagues, due to the fact that donors are withdrawing their funds from Africa.
In Nigeria where I live and come from, some ARV treatment centres can no longer afford to give PLWHA ARV fixed doses for a month. What they give now is two weeks medication. People are asked to come to the clinics every two weeks for refill of their medications. To many, distance is a big challenge on its own, which is why most times, they even miss clinic appointments. The outcome of this is that lots of treatment failure sets in, adherence cannot be achieved and many lives will be lost.
My question to the so-called international donor is this: Why do this to us? When you know you can't finish what you started, why start in the first place? Human lives should never be used as things of play. Many people living with HIV/AIDS will be endangered. I have been receiving calls from people living with HIV and support group coordinators asking questions I truly do not have answers to because most of us are still jobless. We can't even afford two square meals, not to talk of buying or paying for treatment.
Most of the callers are afraid of what will happen to them and their loved ones. To tell you the truth I don't know what will happen to us who can't afford to pay for treatment, even someone like me who has been going to work for the past four months and have not been paid a salary.
Right now I am so lost and confused on how to move pass this big issue. Someone called this evening to tell me that they went to one of the APIN/PEPFAR clinics and were told that from the 1st of November 2014 they will start paying the sum of five thousand naira for treatment. She said that since she got this information, all her body system went down, she is feeling sick because she does not know where and how she will get the money from considering the fact that she does petty trading with income that only comes once in a blue moon. To do a baseline test is very expensive (CD4 count is 11,000 - 15,000 naira and viral load is above 20,000 naira).
She said "Bose! What is going to happen to a family who has more than one person living with the HIV virus?" She said her friend and her whole family are positive with the virus. What will happen to the children who are HIV positive?????
I believe you too want to ask me what my Nigerian government is doing. All they tell us as advocates is that they are working on it! That is the only language they speak. I learned that the President Goodluck Jonathan administration has created an emergency trust funds for HIV which covers treatment, prevention and PMCTC. But our honourable minister of finance is not willing to release any such money.
In two to five years' time there might be no grant to even bury the bodies of many persons living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria and no wood to make coffins. If they cannot even pay people salaries for four months how can they ensure access to treatment; that is my Nigeria for you! There is no Availability, Affordability, Accountability, and Accessibility and all other abilities you can think of in Nigeria.
I am appealing as a mother, sister, friend and colleague to the international donor to kindly please think before taking drastic steps. Please don't let our children die and don't let them become more orphans.
Think! Think! Think!! And Act Now! African Leaders, Keep Your Promise! Do Not Let Us Down!!!!