Thought Leadership

Front-line work from Nigeria at AIDS2010

4 Mins read

Further to the response about one of our previous posts on posters out of Nigeria, we spent Wednesday afternoon at the International AIDS conference going round the posters from Nigeria. We do realise the hurdles of presenting work from Nigeria at a conference like this. From finding the time and space in a country with almost no electricity, writing up a scientific article, finding funds, getting a visa…the hurdles appear endless. It was no surprise therefore that most of the colleagues at the conference were funded predominantly by our “development partners”, mostly USAID grantees. But all the same, one cannot help but wonder how much the work done by colleagues, presented here at the conference influences the response in Nigeria. One wonders how much our colleagues at the Federal Ministry of Health, and the National Agency for Control of AIDS are doing in collecting the evidence from research projects in the country, and how much it is being used to inform the evidence base for policy formulation. Each day I looked around for these colleagues, hoping to see some of them at least going round to encourage our colleagues that have made the effort to present, flying the flag and presenting their work at this conference. Well….maybe they did go round…and I did not see them! Did you?

But we will not let that distress us. We will bring to you a cross selection of the posters from Nigeria presented at the conference. These Nigerians deserve to be heard. As they stood by their posters waiting, a few of us walked round and listened with interest to the work they did and to their results and recommendations. Summaries are presented below. If you want to get in touch with any of them directly on an issue related to their work – get in touch with us and we will link you up.

Their voices deserve to be heard, you deserve to hear these voices…

Nwokedi Ndulue was presenting on the outcomes of a national pharmacovigilance, reporting on projects taking place in rural HIV clinics in Northern Nigeria. The project attempted to track the side effects of antiretrovirals in our context, and using the data to influence policy on the choice of first line combination therapies…(an MSH project)

Jude Amaechi Ilozumba presented a retrospective review of medical records of 102 infants delivered to HIV positive mothers, and found a negative correlation between the duration of exposure to ARVs and birth weight. Jude who leads the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV programme of AIDS Relief shared with me the difficulties they face in getting mothers identified as HIV positive in PMTCT programmes into comprehensive AIDS care.  (project of the Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland)
B. Faloye presented the results of a project implementing workforce programmes to prevent and care for HIV positive individuals in multinationals in South West Nigeria. Of course I asked him what the plans were to take this beyond multinationals…:). (project of the Society for Family Health and PSI.)
Abiodun Adetoro then spoke to me about an innovative project partnering labour unions to provide HIV counselling and testing services. He told me about the interesting positive experience he has had working with the unions both large and small…(project of the AED)
Mohammed Jantato’s poster was on a most important piece of work exploring how to reach female out-of-school girls in Northern Nigeria. No easy work and kudos to them…(project support by USAID, UKAid and  PSI)
Mrs Chidi presented her work on promoting HIV and STI services among female sex workers and shared with me the demand for the services she provides, and how this is affecting the health of a community where many workers live far from their spouses and the inherent challenges this causes (a project of the oil companies based in Bonny Island)
Seye Babatunde of the Department of Preventive and Social M
edicine at the University of Port Harcourt presented the results of his work comparing the willingness to test for HIV in school vs community based youths in Port Harcourt. Seye’s work was one of the few I found not obviously supported by one of our development partners….
Cornel Ekeh told me about the work he has been doing for the past 4 years across Imo and Abia States with support groups of People living with HIV. He described the challenges he faced on a daily basis, but also the satisfaction he got from doing this work….(a PSI project)
I ended my day with Adejoke Sonoiki of Journalists against AIDS (JAAIDS)…as she took me through the work JAAIDS is doing on budget advocacy, and human rights…trying to hold governments and stake holders accountable for their own promises. 
I dedicate this post to my dear friend Omololu Falobi, founder of JAAIDS, with whom I spent a lot of time at my first International AIDS Conference in 2000 in Durban. Omololu was an inspiration to many of us, an ordinary Nigerian hero. At the conference in Durban in 2000, Omololu who had just set up the JAAIDS eforum on HIV/AIDS, still Nigeria’s largest forum on HIV and AIDS organised the first meeting of Nigerians at such conferences which then became a tradition. Serious countries would celebrate a man like this….but if our government does not, we will. Omololu was brutally murdered in yet uncertain circumstances in Lagos, Nigeria. But he lives in our hearts…and this post, and indeed a lot of the work on this blog is inspired by him.

Rest in Peace Omo! We will never forget!!

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead

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