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NASS Ready To Prioritize Fight Against HIV/AIDS, Says Saraki

Ayodele Afolabi, Abuja

ABUJA, NIGERIA (AFRICAN EXAMINER) – President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, on Thursday, said the National Assembly (NASS) will continue to give required attention to the fight against HIV/AIDS in the country.

Saraki stated this when he received a delegation from the Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation in Africa, led by former President of Botswana, Dr. Festus Mogae and ex-Vice President of Uganda, Dr. Speciosa Wandira, in his office, Abuja.

The group was expected to be led to the NASS by former President Olusegun Obasanjo who however missed the trip because he was in Lusaka, Zambia and did not get into Abuja on time to be part of the delegation.

The Senate President stated that the NASS leadership is not only concerned about the spread of HIV in Nigeria in particular and and Africa in general, but will continue to assist in efforts including appropriating adequate funds to agencies in the country that are devoted to tackling the pandemic.

Saraki said: “We all know the importance of the fight against HIV/AIDS. You made a point that it seems we are beginning to relax concerning the danger posed by the disease. The initiative you have taken to raise more awareness is commendable. We in the National Assembly will continue to champion advocacy and creation of awareness concerning the scourge including making necessary budgetary allocation to aid the fight.

“We did it in the case of Polio. When I was the Governor of Kwara State, we, the Governors across the country saw that there was no coordination between the Federal Government and the State governments on the efforts being made to eradicate Polio. We organized a seminar where we sat with the Bill Gates Foundation, to chart a new way forward. This resulted in the resounding success we witness presently,” he said.

The Senate President called for proper coordination and awareness in combating the menace of the deadly disease adding that relevant government agencies and other stakeholders must come together with the commitment to drastically reduce the spread of HIV in our communities.

In his words; “I agree with you that there must be coordination and awareness. The 8th National Assembly will play its own role by placing it on the front burner. The message is that we are not out of the woods yet concerning the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Therefore, we will continue to play our role and partner with relevant stakeholders to further curb the scourge.

He thanked the delegation for the visit and said that the nation’s door is always open for collaboration and partnership in efforts at winning the war against HIV/AIDS in the country.

Earlier, the leader of the delegation and former President of Botswana, Dr. Festus Mogae, said HIV/AIDS will continue to spread unless it is checked. He called on the three tiers of government to champion and channel more resources for advocacy towards sensitizing the people.

He said: “AIDS is like cancer, it grows. It is only when we pay attention that we will be able to prevent it. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS requires intensive technical competence. Government should not look back in subsidizing the anti-retroviral drugs and ensuring its availability and accessibility.” Mogae said.

He also said government must continue to make adequate funds available both at the State, Federal and Local government levels to curtail the menace. Mogae emphasised the need for proper coordination between various agencies of governments, if the fight against HIV/AIDS is to be sustained and meaningful results achieved.

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