Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The Nigerian and United States governments have committed 110 million dollars to a project, the Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Assessment Survey (NAIIS), that would give precision and direction to all HIV/AIDS-related activities in Nigeria.
The survey which will be conducted by experts from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, (UMB), in at least 170, 000, households in Nigeria, will bequeath the National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA), with good and precise knowledge of HIV fight and other related activities in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s health minister, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who spoke at a brief signing ceremony of the agreement in Abuja on Thursday, highlighted the benefits of the survey.
He said: “The survey will end the era of ‘guess work’ in terms of burden of HIV disease in Nigeria. It will wipe off the shame of not having precise record of people living with the virus in Nigeria. It also account for resources committed thus far in the fight and perhaps, offer improved approach to achieve better result.”
The Minister disclosed that the exercise is the largest HIV/AIDS survey in the world, with approximately 200, 000 Nigerian households to be surveyed.
“We are not restricted to HIV alone, hepatitis B and C will also be involved in the survey. Fortunately the terms of agreement had compel us to link those tested positive to treatment centers nearest to them,” he added.
He, however, disclosed that funding of the project would come directly and indirectly from the US government. “US has direct financial commitment of 90 million dollars to the project and 20 million dollars through the global fund,” he said.
Adewole thus assured the US government and other development partners that Nigerian government will neither interfere in the exercise nor attempt to doctor the survey result.
NACA Director General, Dr. Sani Aliyu, in his remarks confessed that NACA will be the biggest beneficiary of the survey, as it will give it proper guidance in its programme plans and implementation.
He said: “We have struggled in the past few years to define the extent of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, give the world accurate number of infected patients as well as resources committed in the fight but failed, because of absence of data. But we are happy that the answer has finally come, with the survey.
“We are expecting to get precise and detailed records of HIV patients in Nigeria, their demographic information, living condition and other information that would help guide our operations.”
The NACA DG was optimistic that the field trial of the survey would be concluded shortly before the 2019 elections as planned and the outcome of the survey will be published the following year.
Meanwhile, the US ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, appreciated the desire and commitment of Nigerian government to such huge survey that would provide adequate information that would curtail the spread of the virus.
He assured Nigerian government of US government commitment, financially and otherwise, to the project, which will give precision and boost to the fight against HIV/AIDS.