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The findings of the first Akwa Ibom AIDS Indicator Survey (AKAIS) were unveiled this week in Uyo, during a dissemination meeting of HIV/AIDS stakeholders, hosted by the Akwa Ibom Ministry of Health.
The study, which was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), was a collaborative effort between the state government and USAID flagship HIV/AIDS and TB project – Strengthening Integrated Delivery of HIV/AIDS Services (SIDHAS), which is implemented by FHI 360.
The dissemination event was attended by the state governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, as the Special Guest of Honor.
Other dignitaries at the event include the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. Onofiok Luke; the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong; the Chairman of the House Committee on Health, Hon. Monday Eyo Okon; other members of the State Executive Council and permanent secretaries.
Also in attendance was Deputy Office Director, Office of HIV/AIDS & TB, USAID, Kelly Badiane; Senior Strategic Information Advisor USAID, Annie Chen-Carrington; Country Director of FHI 360, Dr. Robert Chiegil; Chief of Party of the SIDHAS project, Satish Raj Pandey; representatives of the NACA Director General, Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Joint United Nations Program on HIV&AIDS (UNAIDS), Akwa Ibom Network of People Living with HIV&AIDS (AKNET); other development partners, civil society organizations, religious and traditional leaders, and key HIV/AIDS stakeholders within and outside the state.
In his welcome remarks, the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Ukpong, welcomed all and expressed the commitment of the state Ministry of Health in partnering with reputable organizations for the provision of quality research and health services for the people of the state.
He acknowledged the funding from USAID through the SIDHAS project in the implementation of AKAIS and reiterated that the survey presents an opportunity for the state to more accurately estimate the current HIV/AIDS prevalence and incidence and better guide the HIV/AIDS response.
In his speech, FHI 360 Country Director, Dr Robert Chiegil, expressed how much FHI 360 has enjoyed the support and collaboration of the government and people of the state and the organization’s excitement in supporting the conduct of this very important survey; the first of its kind in Akwa Ibom.
The FMOH representative stated that Akwa Ibom is one of the 12+1 HIV high burden states prioritized by the government of Nigeria. It is also one of the eight states prioritized by PEPFAR for accelerated HIV response. AKAIS is therefore well-timed to provide information that will guide program implementation in the state. She also noted that AKAIS is one of the first states to conduct the AIDS Indicator Survey in Nigeria and the first to have its findings disseminated.
The Federal Ministry of Health congratulates the Akwa Ibom State Government and the USAID-funded SIDHAS project for a successful conduct of the AKAIS.
Governor Emmanuel, as the special guest while appreciating the support of the U.S. government to the state in addressing the epidemic of HIV/AIDS, said the survey will enable his government to better address the epidemic. He emphasized the concern of the state about the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS and expressed commitment to working to reduce the HIV burden in Akwa Ibom State. He enjoined all citizens of Akwa Ibom to arise to the consciousness that good health is a major driver of development and that HIV/AIDS is a reality that requires collective responsibility of the entire populace.
In her opening remarks, the representative of the USAID Mission Director, Deputy Office Director, Office of HIV/AIDS & TB, USAID, Kelly Badiane, said the U.S. Government support to the HIV/AIDS response in the state is in line with the new U.S. President’s Emergency Response Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) paradigm of “doing the Right Things, in the Right Places at the Right Time.”
The representative of Director General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Dr. Gregory Ashefor, said the agency appreciates the role SIDHAS and the Akwa Ibom State Government have played in carrying out the survey. He expressed the commitment of the federal government through NACA towards epidemic control in Akwa Ibom. He also expressed his belief that this dissemination would enable the state government and state actors to understand the current status of the HIV epidemic in Akwa Ibom and the need to conscientiously work with the federal government to bring the epidemic to zero by 2030.
Other dignitaries at the event, similarly expressed their support towards the fight against HIV/AIDS in Akwa Ibom.
Major highlights at the event were presentations on the survey’s key findings.
The Akwa Ibom AIDS Indicator Survey (AKAIS), a population based cross-sectional survey, was carried out across the 31 local government areas (LGAs) in Akwa Ibom State. Field work of the study took place between April 2017 to June 2017. A total of 14,899 children and adults were tested for HIV. The study found that the HIV prevalence among children 0 to 14 years was 0.4% while the HIV prevalence among persons 15 years or older was 4.8%. This therefore means that 2.8% of the population in Akwa Ibom State is living with HIV.
The study further revealed a 0.41% annual incidence of HIV among adults ages 15 years and older. The number of new infections was closely similar in females as in males (0.41% among females and 0.42% among males). However, the HIV incidence in ages 15- 19 years was higher than the rest of the age groups; translating to nearly half of the new HIV infections occurring in the adult population.
After an exhaustive review and discussion on the key findings by the technical team and dignitaries, Dr. Patrick Essiet, the Coordinator, State AIDS/STI Control Program, gave a summary presentation on the keys findings and recommendations from the study, to Governor Emmanuel.
Consensus from stakeholders at the event included the need to mobilize support from all stakeholders to ensure the fight against HIV/AIDS gets the required attention to achieve epidemic control.