The National Agency for the Control of AIDS says an estimated 51,000 persons living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria died in the first two quarters of 2020.
According to NACA, 1.8 million people also currently live with the infectious disease in Nigeria.
In an exclusive interview with PUNCH HealthWise, NACA Director-General, Dr. Gambo Aliyu, partly blamed the high mortality on lack of access to treatment and the disruption of medical services brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He feared that the number of deaths among PLWHA may worsen, if the disruption to HIV/AIDS treatment persists for another six months.
“For now, we can tentatively say as of June this year, an estimated number of 51,000 people had lost their lives
“We fear that it is due to lack of access to medication and the disruption that COVID-19 brought.
“We are likely to experience more because a recent work we did, a rigorous module, shows that treatment disruption for another six months is likely to cause double of mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa,” he said.
On July 6, a survey conducted by the World Health Organisation showed 73 countries have been warned that they were at risk of stock-outs of antiretroviral medicines as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The United Nations agency had noted that 24 of those countries were either already having a critically low stock of ARVs or disruptions in the supply of the life-saving medicines.
The survey followed a modelling exercise convened by WHO and UNAIDS in May which forecasted that a six-month disruption in access to ARVs could lead to a doubling in AIDS-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 alone.
The NACA director also predicted that an estimated new HIV infection in 2020, which presently stands at 48,000, could further increase astronomically to 100,000.
“On estimated infection for 2020, that is something we expect to go around 100,000. As of June this year, we could tentatively say we have about 48,000 individuals who are down with HIV infection for 2020.
“At the moment, we have about 1.1m patients accessing HIV treatment in facilities across the country and we are looking to increase the number to about 1.5m in the next three years,” he stated.
While bemoaning the disruption brought about by the pandemic, Aliyu appealed to corporate bodies in the private sector to collaborate with NACA to empower people living with HIV/AIDS.
He commended some private organisations for taking the bold initiative to distribute palliative packages to the homes of some PLWHA.
“We commend them for that. On our side, NACA also works hand-in-hand with the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management. They requested a list of an indigent few with their account numbers.
“We had made the information available and quite hopeful that as both palliatives and money are being disbursed to the very lower cadre of people who need it in the society, PLWHA will also be prioritised and accessed,” he said.