1.Good morning, Distinguished Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen. It was in 1985 that the first HIV case was recorded in Nigeria, with the diagnosis of a young girl known as Mary. Since then, we have lost Nigerians of every stripe to the disease – a veritable sea of humanity. And today, our country has the second largest burden of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the world. One out of every three children born with HIV in the world today is a Nigerian.

2.And yet, only one out of every three pregnant women in our country gets to go on life-saving anti-retroviral treatment. Only one million Nigerians are currently on treatment; an estimated two million more need to be captured by the treatment – the majority of whom are unaware of their status. The statistics are staggering, in terms of the grave and continuing threat to our country by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. If these serve as a jolt to the system, then the bitter pill is necessary, ladies and gentlemen. The grim march of HIV/AIDS must be stopped; and it is for this sombre duty that we are gathered here this morning.

3.As Michel Sidibe, the Executive Director of the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), has stated, and I agree, “The right to health is a fundamental human right.” As we commemorate the 29th World AIDS Day, therefore, we must take active steps towards actualising the right of all Nigerians to health, especially the estimated three (3) million of our compatriots who are living with HIV/AIDS.

4.As a Fast-Track country, Nigeria’s HIV/AIDS response is guided by the National Strategic Framework 2017-2021, which aims for zero new infections and zero deaths from HIV, while zero mother-to-child transmission remains a priority. The Nigerian Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) is partnering with the private sector to work up an increased offensive in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but the stark reality is that a whole lot more needs to be done.

5.Global action to eradicate the scourge of HIV/AIDS remains insufficient, despite the advances made against the disease in the last three decades. World AIDS Day focuses attention on the plight of 78 million people who have been infected globally, and calls to remembrance the 35 million we have lost to AIDS-related illnesses worldwide. I remember a time, during the 1980s, when the pandemic seemed like an apocalyptic spectre hanging over the whole world, and public awareness campaigns emblazoned the grim warning, ‘AIDS – Don’t Die of Ignorance’. Today, the more appropriate caution is that we must not let our citizens die of inadequate response.

6.Presently, more people die of HIV infection in Nigeria than in any other country in the world, with about 180,000 deaths annually. The United Nations indicates that Nigeria recorded 220,000 new HIV infections in 2016 alone. Added to the fact that we have the largest number of newly-infected children in the world, our country contributes the highest number of new HIV infections among children globally. Put starkly, HIV/AIDS remains one of the biggest public health problems of our society. This is an unacceptable situation, and we must all rise to the onerous task of eradicating the pandemic.

7.Admittedly, the response of the Governments of Nigeria against HIV/AIDS over the past 30 years has been robust and progressive. UNAIDS data for 2017 estimates that 31% of adults who are living with the virus are on anti-retroviral drugs, the treatment that helps people with HIV live longer and healthier. More than 10 million Nigerians today know their HIV status. Nigerians with HIV infection now live longer, can marry, live fulfilling lives and have HIV-free children. But these successes – notable though they are – fall far below the mark, unless we can get more people on treatment and stop new infections. This means that more vigorous response is required to meet the 90-90-90 UNAIDS target of an AIDS-free generation by 2030.

8.The 8th National Assembly is strong in its resolve to play its part in the multi-sectoral response against HIV/AIDS – and is today re-engineering its HIV/AIDS response mechanism by inaugurating the National Assembly Coalition against AIDS (NASSCOA), and accordingly launching the Wellness Trust Fund (WTF). The NASSCOA shall be a multi-sectoral Legislative platform for waging the war against HIV/AIDS in the National Assembly Community and our Constituencies; while the Wellness Trust Fund shall be a platform for the mobilisation of funds for this onerous task.

9.We shall continue to invoke our powers of appropriation under the Constitution to ensure the provision of necessary resources towards the eradication of this global threat. To this end, the 8th Senate will implement the 2014 National Health Act, which would channel one percent of the National Budget into the health sector in 2018, as a way of making more funding available for public health, including the fight against HIV/AIDS.

10.On a day such as this, I am reminded that we owe a debt of gratitude to the late Dr. Jonathan Mann, founder of the World Health Organisation’s Global Programme on AIDS, who initiated the World AIDS Day commemoration. His legacy teaches us that, what we do today in response to this pandemic, will be remembered by generations to come. Therefore, we must not be found wanting.

11.Mary, who was diagnosed in 1985, was just thirteen years old – an adolescent. In our fight against AIDS in this country, therefore, we must leave no one behind, especially those adolescents between the ages of 10 to 19 who were born with HIV. We must leave no one behind.

12.The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day has been appropriately adopted in Nigeria as: ‘Right to Health – Making It Happen’. It is in line with that vision of making the 90-90-90 target happen in Nigeria, that the National Assembly Coalition against HIV/AIDS (NASSCOA) and the Wellness Trust Fund (WTF) are hereby inaugurated and launched respectively.

Thank you.


Abubakar Bukola Saraki MBBS CON (pronunciationⓘ; born on 19 December 1962) is a Nigerian politician who served as the 13th president of the Nigerian Senate from 2015 to 2019.[1][2] He previously served as the governor of Kwara State from 2003 to 2011; and was elected to the Senate in 2011, under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), representing the Kwara Central Senatorial District, and then re-elected in the 2015 general elections