Professor Innocent Ujah
By Chioma Obinna
Irked by the plight of Nigerians living with HIV/AIDS, the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, NIMR, Yaba, Lagos, has commenced research into the failure of first line Antiretroviral, ARV, drugs in the country. The Institute has also updated its Human Virology Laboratory to carry out molecular studies and screening for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
Director-General, NIMR, Prof. Innocent Ujah, who disclosed this in Lagos, said the Institute has raised the bar in HIV treatment by recording a 0.78 percent prevalence in Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV, PMTCT, at its treatment site. Speaking ahead of a special annivesary event to mark his 6th year in office, taking place today, themed: ”Post MDGs: Maternal and Child Health in Nigeria”, Ujah said NIMR researchers have found that the first line ARV drugs were failing, hence the need to know why.
Already the Institute has received grants from the Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention, CDC, and Atlanta to carry out the investigation. “We have put our data together, analyse and drawn a molecular study of all those that are failing in first line drugs and we are going to disseminate this to stakeholders by October, 2016 in Abuja. We’ll publish our findings which will be a contribution of Nigeria to the World Body of knowledge.
“We have done well in HIV/AIDS because the Institute has the largest number of HIV patients in Nigeria. We do not only manage patients, we also research and improve the quality of care of patients. “We have reduced the mother- to-child transmission of HIV, (MTCT) prevalence to less than 1 percent.” Describing the feat as remarkable, Ujah added said without intervention, over 20 to 30 percent of babies born to women living with HIV will be HIV positive.
Further disclosed that a renowned Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Prof. Oladapo Shittu from the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria, would speak on the topic “Post MDGs: Maternal and Child Health in Nigeria” “We thought we should continue to remind ourselves about the poor indices of MNCH and the need to respond towards improving the appalling figures,” he added.
He said NIMR is working towards establishing the prevalence of Human Papiloma Virus, HPV among healthy women in Nigeria. Already, DNA tests are being carried out to characterize the various subtypes of HPV. “We have tried to replicate our activities in the six geo-political zones of the country. We are using this to sensitize people, particularly, young girls aged nine to 13 years to go for screening early.
“HPV is second to breast cancer as common causes of cancer and commonest causes of death in women. So if we can prevent young women through vaccines then we have been able to look at the public health of the people. “We want to see if the vaccine responds to the type of strains of HPV we have here.”
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