Undetectable = Untransmittable: MSH Nigeria Commemorates World AIDS Day 2019

Adolescents and a few MSH staff pose for the camera after the Adolescent and Young People Program and Symposium held in Abuja, Nigeria. Photo credit: Aor Ikyaabo/MSH

In commemoration of World Aids Day 2019, MSH, through the USAID Care and Treatment for Sustained Support (CaTSS) Project, joined in a week of activities hosted by Nigeria’s National Agency for the Control of AIDS and the Federal Ministry of Health. In collaboration with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the government launched the “Undetectable equals Untransmittable” (U=U) campaign on November 25—a strategic campaign to help achieve zero new infections and reduce stigma for Nigerians living with HIV. The campaign promotes the benefit of treatment and encourages people living with HIV to access and adhere to treatment to prevent sexual transmission of HIV. The principle underlying U=U follows firmly established evidence that if an HIV-positive person is on HIV medications (antiretroviral therapy) with a consistently undetectable HIV viral load, the HIV virus cannot be transmitted sexually.

Goodwill messages were delivered by representatives of UNAIDS in Nigeria, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and other implementing partners. The USAID Deputy Chief of Mission, Ms. Kathleen FitzGibbon, reaffirmed PEPFAR’s commitment to working with the Nigerian government toward achieving HIV epidemic control while promoting the long-term sustainability of their responses to find, link, and maintain patients on life-saving HIV treatment. She noted that PEPFAR recognizes that successful and sustainable HIV/AIDS interventions must involve, be informed by, and be tailored to those served. In observance of this year’s World AIDS Day theme, “Communities make the difference,” PEPFAR’s commitment to reaching all populations and linking them to HIV services remains strong. 

A social media campaign challenge to boost visibility and create awareness about U=U was organized by the Government of Nigeria. Implementing partners were encouraged to promote the campaign on their various organizational media handles. On the day of the launch, CDC Nigeria recognized MSH Nigeria on Twitter as a key influencer for the U=U campaign.

On November 28, MSH Nigeria participated in the Adolescent and Young People Program and Symposium held at the Presidential Villa. The symposium highlighted the Operation Triple Zero initiative, which focuses on empowering adolescents and young people living with HIV to commit to the “triple zero outcomes”: zero missed appointments, zero missed doses, and zero viral load. Leading up to the symposium, adolescents participating in Operation Triple Zero clubs across Nigeria took part in an essay competition on the topic: “At what age do you think a young person should be allowed to test for HIV without needing the permission of the parents or guardian?” Three adolescents from the Operation Triple Zero club implemented by the CaTSS Project in Minna, Niger state, submitted their essays and made the best 20 list selected from adolescents from across the country. 

Nigeria’s First Lady, Dr. Aisha Buhari, gave remarks at the symposium and reiterated that it is important to remember that “as much as HIV is a major issue, most people living with HIV lead healthy lives when empowered with information on how to effectively manage the infection.” 

As the event drew to an end, Dr. Buhari presented prizes and gifts to the six finalists in the essay competition and urged them to be good ambassadors.

Through the CaTSS project, MSH remains at the fore supporting the implementation of quality health care services across different states in Nigeria.