A Defining Milestone in Nigeria’s HIV Response
HIV self-testing (HIVST) and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) are well-known, proven HIV-prevention strategies. However, global HIV program experts note that optimizing uptake of these strategies, especially among people who need them most, is a challenge.
In Nigeria, efforts to overcome this challenge accelerated when the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) launched the National HIVST and PrEP Communication Strategy on January 18, 2022. This strategy “elaborates the communication action plan that will promote the uptake of HIVST and PrEP interventions for the prevention of new infections and reduction of the burden of HIV among individuals and groups particularly at high risk of acquiring the virus. It addresses the challenges of low-level awareness, demand, and uptake of the HIVST and PrEP services,” says Dr. Gambo Aliyu, director general of NACA, who presided over the launch.
The strategy is designed for use by government ministries, departments, and agencies; development partners and funders; civil society and community-based organizations; and health care workers. It will help them design programs using a range of social and behavior change communication approaches that will ultimately increase uptake of HIVST and PrEP services, especially among key and vulnerable populations.
The government and its partners are proud of this milestone and optimistic that the strategy will bolster Nigeria’s efforts to achieve HIV epidemic control by the year 2030. In her remarks during the launch, Rachel Goldstein, director of the HIV and TB office of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission in Nigeria said, “As our HIV tools have become highly focused on biomedical interventions, it’s critical that we don’t stop thinking about the evidence that we have around communication, because if we have tools and people don’t know about them… we’ve lost an opportunity.”
The National HIVST and PrEP Communication Strategy is a product of concerted efforts and HIVST and PrEP implementation experiences among stakeholders in HIV programming in Nigeria, with technical support from JSI and leadership and coordination from the government, through NACA and the National STI Control Program.
Two years ago, JSI’s Total Market Approach (TMA) project developed the concept note that led to initial engagements with the government on the need for the strategy. This included hosting an inception meeting to secure the buy-in of partners to commence the development process, resource collation from relevant stakeholders, and desk reviews to identify relevant data.
Dr. Olawale Durosinmi-Etti speaks at the launch ceremony on January 18th, 2022.
At the strategy launch, Dr. Olawale Durosinmi-Etti, chief of party for the TMA project, said, “The first time that I had a conversation on the need to have this document developed with the leadership of NACA, it was warmly welcomed. Throughout the process, it has provided the leadership and coordination required to have this document completed, working with Heartland Alliance and other implementing partners in Nigeria, with support and generosity of USAID.”
The government of Nigeria and its partners are committed to disseminating the strategy to relevant authorities across the country and ensuring its implementation. This will include tracking progress and documentation and dissemination of lessons to tailor the strategy to reflect evolving circumstances.