Adequate funding, collaboration required to slow spread of HIV across borders – Minister

the Nigerian Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanirehas said adequate funding and partnerships are needed to mitigate the spread of HIV across borders. Mr. Ehanire, speaking at the second high-level meeting of the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Organization (ALCO) in the Republic of Benin on Thursday, said that no mandate can be achieved without adequate funding and collaboration. He noted that understanding the importance of collaboration among member states will ensure success in fighting the HIV epidemic. Mr. Ehanire said that the collaborations will also ensure the control of epidemic diseases. ALCO is an intergovernmental organization created in 2002 by the five Heads of State of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria to serve as an intervention in the fight against HIV. Its mandate is to carry out a regional cross-border HIV prevention and management program and to facilitate the free movement of people and goods to complement national efforts. ALCO birth Various reports have shown that in Africa, long-range ground transportation is a major route for the spread of HIV. Drivers and their assistants spend the night on the road and can spend days at border crossings waiting to go through customs and border formalities. These stops and delays provide multiple opportunities for sexual encounters that can transmit HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This further places truck drivers, other mobile workers, sex workers and people living along the routes at higher risk of contracting HIV. A 1992 survey found that 33 percent of truck drivers and 80 percent of sex workers in Lomé, Togo, were HIV-positive. It also indicated that prevalence rates among truck drivers and sex workers in large cities along the corridor were higher. ALSO READ: HIV/AIDS: Nigeria has the largest global fund portfolio – Official In 2001, the estimated adult HIV prevalence rates in the five countries connected by the corridor were; 9.7 percent in Ivory Coast, 6.0 percent in Togo, 5.8 percent in Nigeria, 3.6 percent in Benin, and 3.0 percent in Ghana. These statistics prompted heads of state to establish ALCOs to mitigate the impact of the HIV epidemic. Main interventions Speaking at the meeting, the Director General of the National AIDS Control Agency (NACA), Gambo Aliyu, said that around 30 million people live along West Africa’s main east-west route, which runs from Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire to Lagos in Nigeria. Aliyu, who is also president of ALCO, said that 14 million people travel along the corridor every year, making the route essential for the region’s socio-economic development. He said that since its establishment, ALCO has taken advantage of the support of member countries and development partners to implement various programs in the health and transportation sector. He said that these interventions have contributed to improving the public health response and promoting the free movement of people and goods along the Abidjan – Lagos corridor. Aliyu said the meeting was initially scheduled for 2020 “but the contingencies of human existence plunged the world into a new pandemic that made the meeting impossible at the time.” He said that the first high-level regional meeting was held in 2019. Mr. Aliyu explained that the meeting is intended to allow the ministers of health and transport to assess the results of ALCO activities since their inception; propose ways to review the initial mandate of ALCO and propose synergies between ALCO and the ECOWAS Commission in the areas of health, transport, trade, free movement of people and goods. In her remarks, ALCO Executive Secretary Idrissa Kone said the initiative has helped the West African region get a grip on its response to HIV. Mr. Kone said that since the establishment of ALCO, there have been many impactful interventions. However, he said that the organization faces some challenges and that funding is one of the main ones. He said low and delayed funding from member states is limiting the organization from fully achieving its mandate. He said that two countries out of the five regularly pay their contributions in full. He urged other member states to adopt this so that the organization can fulfill its mandate. In his remarks, the Minister of Health of the Republic of Benin, Benjamin Hounkpatin, said that ALCO will allow the five countries to take the lead in strengthening the response to HIV. Hounkpatin said there is a high prevalence of HIV among sex workers along the corridor. He noted that the new era of ALCO is expected to come up with recommendations for heads of state to adopt as part of the effort to end the HIV epidemic. Read More Related News Here Let here it in the comment below if you do have an opinion on this; Adequate funding, collaboration required to slow spread of HIV across borders – Minister