Fresh Voices From the Field: Ongoing Efforts to Improve HIV/AIDS Treatment and Prevention in NigeriaPosted on by
This is the first in our ongoing “Fresh Voices From the Field” series, where we hear from ASPPH (Association of School and Programs of Public Health) Global Health Fellows working throughout the world. Global Health Fellows are recent Master of Public Health or Doctoral graduates placed in CDC global health offices in Atlanta and abroad. They work on a range of priority public health issues and bring a fresh perspective to CDC’s efforts in the field. (See other “Fresh Voices” blogs.)
Edward Vallejo earned his Master of Public Health degree in Quantitative Methods: Epidemiology at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey while working as a microbiologist at the UMDNJ Center for Emerging Pathogens. He has conducted biomedical research with the Russian Federal Space Agency in Moscow, Russia and volunteered as a relief worker in Haiti and the Philippines. He is from Cranford, New Jersey.
Does having access to clean water, stable electricity, and freedom from the fear of contracting an infectious disease make your list of major health and safety concerns? If you live in the developed world, the answer is most likely no, but for the last four months, I have been working in the West African country of Nigeria, where those issues and an ever-changing security situation are a regular part of my daily life. As a member of CDC Nigeria’s Strategic Information Team, my focus has been on HIV/AIDS, the global pandemic that is a leading cause of death for the 170 million people living in Africa’s most populous country.
Less than a month after arriving, I helped to coordinate a large-scale HIV/AIDS service and data quality assessment that involved 40 public health physicians, epidemiologists, strategic information and database specialists traveling to 18 medical facilities across the country. These personnel from CDC Nigeria, CDC Atlanta, the University of California at San Francisco, Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health and the Nigerian Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program developed a detailed picture of the current state of services and data in those facilities. As a result, established and future programs will benefit from our recommendations, especially in preventing mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS, an area in which Nigeria carries a substantial burden.
Any misconceptions that I held about the importance and effectiveness of this work have been put to rest. Treating those ravaged by HIV/AIDS and preventing the further spread of this disease is absolutely necessary in order to stop millions more from suffering and dying needlessly. Despite the long, hard road ahead, the dedication of the Nigerian people and others around the world will make the creation of an AIDS-free generation a reality that we can all look forward to.