U.S. Department of Defense HIV Program (Nigeria)
The U.S. Department of Defense HIV Program in Nigeria (DDHPN) aims to increase the capacity of the Nigerian military medical system to treat and prevent HIV infection among members of the military, their families, and their surrounding communities.
The program will reduce new cases of HIV within the Nigerian military community, reduce progression of the disease in HIV-positive individuals, and encourage voluntary counseling and testing to reduce stigma and increase awareness of HIV status.
According to the Intergrated Biobehavioral Sentinel Survey 2007, prevalence rate in the Nigerian armed forces is 3.1%. Risk factors in the military population include a social climate that is relatively permissive of risky sexual behaviors, deployment demanding frequent travel, during which some soldiers engage in unprotected sex with sex workers or strangers; and injuries and illnesses that risk exposure through blood transfusions.
As part of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), DDHPN is committed to responding effectively to HIV/AIDS within its designated sector: uniformed and civilian members of the Nigerian Ministry of Defence (NMOD).
The DDHPN covers the following PEPFAR program areas within the Nigerian military health system: Anti-Retroviral Drug Treatment and Service; Laboratory Infrastructure and Staffing Support; Abstinence, Be Faithful, or Correct and Consistent Use of Condom activities; Medical Transmission and Blood Safety; Counseling and Testing; Orphans and Vulnerable Children; Palliative Care (TB/HIV and Basic Care and Support Services); and Preventing Mother to Child Transmission.
Military families and members of their surrounding communities, including youths, vendors, and sex workers, interact with the military, exposing them to similar risks. The Emergency Plan believes that it is critically important to include members of the surrounding communities in establishing comprehensive prevention and treatment programs for the military. In particular, the participation of the greater community is integral to activities that target behavior change, such as Abstinence and Be Faithful activities.
Broad-based behavioral interventions focusing on dependents and communities around military posts have been incorporated as part of a larger national effort. Efforts are being strengthened to target pre- and post- deployment of soldiers supporting UN peacekeeping missions.
DDHPN programs are designed to promote institutional competence within the Nigerian military to deal with HIV-related problems, rather than foster a patron-client relationship.
Unique in the Nigerian context, DDHPN acts as both a strategic partner and a hands-on implementing partner. Uniformed officers from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and the Public Health Service will work side by side with their colleagues from the Nigerian Ministry of Defense, Army, Navy and Air Force. This uniformed-to-uniformed partnership has become a model for the implementation of a coordinated approach.
Research activities currently are being developed in collaboration with the Nigerian Armed Forces and other U.S. government programs based in Nigeria. A comprehensive vaccine development program is being planned. 2009 activities will include research and surveillance on HIV, STIs, malaria and influenza.
The NMOD-DOD HIV Program is establishing a Center of Excellence for laboratory services at the tri-service facility in Abuja, which will support all military health efforts. As of May 2009, 20 Nigerian military treatment facilities have initiated comprehensive HIV/AIDS services through PEPFAR. Target population includes 80,000 activity duty, 750,000 military beneficiaries and 1,370,000 civilians.