Yes, we have two stands at the exhibition zone of the conference, but our contribution to the science at this conference has been minimal at best. I am yet to find any oral presentation out of Nigeria …and believe me I have been searching. Yes our National Agency for the Control HIV/AIDS has a stand at the conference, with some literature on the state of the epidemic in Nigeria, but over the first two days I have seen good research presented by colleagues from South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Rwanda. They have all been invited to present key aspects of their response on the big stage. I have looked around the sessions, hoping to find the odd presentation out of Nigeria, something to hold onto but nothing yet….Ill keep looking! I hoped that we would do more in presenting results from the operational research from the ARV treatment programmes in Nigeria. I thought we might join the scientific debate on the effects of raising the level of CD4 count at initiation of treatment to 350. I hoped to see some evidence or preventive research…Ill keep searching!
Some of the the best new research in any conference is often found in the posters. They provide a good feel of work being done at the front lines. For the first two days of the conference, there were 1,200 posters on different aspects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic presented daily. In the abstract book, the country in which it was done is identified. I marked every abstract out of Nigeria and sorted them out to learn about work being done in Nigeria in order to share it with you. It was an eye opening experience….some good news and some sad news. The good news first. I found a series of Nigerians that are really doing excellent work.
These are my heroes at the conference…the sources of hope….the small speckles of light from our Nigeria.
Adebayo Solomon informed me how a “bottom-up” approach to planning had led to a more effective response to HIV/AIDS in 5 Nigerian states.
Chuka Onwuamah spoke to me passionately about the work they had done to set up a quality assurance programme and how this has led to improvements in several processes and outcome indicators at the HIV reference laboratory at the National Institute for Medical Research in Lagos.
Mrs Osuji discussed exciting results of her work in Enugu that has led to an increase in uptake of HIV testing among men (yes men), during antenatal visits through integrated couple counselling.
Bukola Adesina presented a poster on the burden of Malaria among HIV positive women.
Adedayo Adeyemi talked passionately about how he has accessed archived data in our Ministry of Health, and is now using this to answer important public health questions of our time.
That was the good news. Now Ill share with you a perspective that tore me apart. Of the 2,400 abstracts at the first two days of the conference there were 59 posters out of Nigeria. Of these 59, just 23 posters (40%) were actually displayed. The rest apparently did not make it to the conference. We will send a summary of this information to the Network or HIV/AIDS Research in Nigeria. We need to understand why Nigerian colleagues that have done the hard work, had a poster accepted and yet are unable to present this at the conference. We will send them a file with pictures of all the posters on the first two days. Including pictures of the 26 poster stands that were as below with their poster numbers. We will implore our colleagues to use some of their funding to write to these colleagues to understand the impediments they faced in coming to the International Aids Conference in Vienna, despite having their abstracts accepted as posters.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead
Chikwe Ihekweazu is an epidemiologist and consultant public health physician. He is the Editor of Nigeria Health Watch, and the Managing Partner of EpiAfric (www.epiafric.com), which provides expertise in public health research and advisory services, health communication and professional development. He previously held leadership roles at the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the UK's Health Protection Agency. Chikwe has undertaken several short term consultancies for the World Health Organisation, mainly in response to major outbreaks. He is a TED Fellow and co-curator of TEDxEuston.