By Asma’u Ahmad
The Federal Government and the United States had on Thursday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the National HIV and AIDS Indicator and Impact Assessment Survey scheduled to start from June.
The Minister of Health, Dr Isaac Adewole, the Director-General, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Dr Sani Aliyu and the USA Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Stuart Symington, signed the agreement in Abuja.
According to them, the MoU seeks to determine the true distribution of HIV and AIDS, Hepatitis B and C in the country.
As part of the agreement, the U.S. government will provide adequate resources to end the epidemic before 2030.
In his opening remark, Aliyu said that the signing of the MoU was a major landmark in the history of HIV response in the country.
He said that the survey would define the true extent of HIV and AIDS in the country, which had been a major challenge.
“When I started this job, one and half years ago, my major problem was the inability to know the exact number of people living with HIV in the country.
“We have struggled to define the true prevalence of HIV and AIDS in the country.
“We have struggled to find the patients and we have struggled to present to the world the resources that have been pushed to fight the epidemic.
“This survey is a household survey, it is nationwide, it will be complex, it is going to be the largest survey in the world for HIV and it will certainly be the most expensive,” he added.
Symington noted that the U.S. government was happy to fund the survey, saying it had earmarked 90 million dollars for it.
He said the survey was funded by every citizen of the U. S. as it showed they cared about ending the epidemic.
He however advised Nigerians to ensure that the survey succeeded as it was an opportunity to completely rid the country of the scourge.
“It is in the power of all Nigerians to participate in this survey, to bring to a close a terrible disease which has no cure,” he said.
Adewole, however, noted that the signing of the MOU would help the country determine the accurate number of people living with HIV in the country.
“The survey will put behind us the concept of making guess work in terms of the number of people living with HIV and AIDS in the country.
“We are not only looking for the prevalence of HIV and AIDS but also Hepatitis B and C and we are giving those who are positive hope by linking them up with treatment,” he said.
He said that the survey would be scientific, free from politics that would not be influenced by the government.
He added that the data would be published at the end of the survey for the world to see.
He appreciated the U.S. government for their kind gesture and assured them that the data would help serve as a driver in the country’s effort in controlling the epidemic.