November 20, 2006
Under a $10 million initiative funded by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, more than 400 Nigerian military personnel are receiving free AIDS treatment and related services through the U.S. Department of Defense's HIV program.
At the Defense Headquarters Medical Center in Abuja, Capt. Chris Ugwaudu recently briefed visiting U.S. European Command Deputy Commander Gen. William Ward on the joint effort. "The [U.S. Department of Defense] program has enabled us to acquire new structures, has provided us with a fairly good number of laboratory equipment and other equipment that have made it easier for us to do our jobs and to render service to our clients," Ugwaudu said. "The laboratory we run has been upgraded by the program and we are able to do our chemistry, we are able to do our CD-4 count. And we are able to have other backups to support the use of antiretroviral [ARV] drugs."
Nigeria has opened six centers for military personnel in need of ARV treatment, and three more are slated to open by March 2007.
The Nigerian government is hoping the availability of treatment will encourage members of the military to seek out voluntary testing. Though there are no firm figures on HIV prevalence in the Nigerian military, experts believe soldiers are at high risk for the disease. Previously, military personnel who tested HIV-positive were discharged from the army.