Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Harvard-PEPFAR Tri-Country Conference Begins!

Over 200 research scientists and experts arrived today in Abuja, Nigeria for the annual Harvard PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) Tri-Country Conference being hosted in Nigeria for the first time by AIDS Prevention Initiative Plus (APIN+), the Nigerian arm of the Harvard PEPFAR program.

The conference, themed “Building Sustainable Partnerships in HIV/AIDS Programming” is taking place at the Abuja Sheraton and Towers from September 11 to 15, 2007 and features delegates and partners from Botswana, Nigeria, Tanzania and the Harvard University teams based in Boston and Chicago, United States. Already delegates are
filling the lobby of the Abuja Sheraton and Towers as they prepare for the opening ceremony, which commences tonight at 7:00 PM.

Each year for the past two years, experts come together to share progress, lessons learned, and to promote best practices across the PEPFAR Program. The two previous conferences were held in Botswana and Tanzania respectively and allowed in-depth review and visits to PEPFAR supported sites in the host country.

The Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), in partnership with Nigerian governmental and non-governmental agencies and universities, initiated the AIDS Prevention Initiative (APIN) program in 2001. The APIN Harvard-Nigeria program has supported over 30 projects in Lagos, Oyo, Plateau and Borno States. These projects focused on promoting AIDS awareness, second-generation HIV and STD surveillance, intervention in high-risk populations, prevention of mother to child transmission, and the socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.

Since 2001, APIN, an initiative funded by the Bill and Mellinda Gates Foundation, have developed human and institutional capacity in several areas to support Nigeria’s response to the epidemic. The project had a substantial impact on AIDS prevention and care and became the foundation for the Harvard-PEPFAR project, known as APIN-Plus, when Harvard University was awarded a grant in February 2004 by the US government under the PEPFAR program, with the goal of providing treatment to 8000 people living with HIV/AIDS per year. The program currently provides ARV treatment, care and support for thousands of Nigerians.

Overall, the Nigeria-PEPFAR program has demonstrated significant progress, having provided very high quality ART treatment and monitoring to more than 23,000 adult and paediatric patients. Additionally, the program has cared for more than 36,000 HIV infected individuals. PMTCT is a significant component of the APIN-Plus program, providing full PMTCT services to over 40,000 pregnant women in 29 sites across the country. The conference will cover all of these issues in great detail as delegates from the three countries and around the world gather to discuss, debate, and share their current projects and visions for HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.

Development Communications Network will be providing daily reports from the conference for the media in Nigeria and across Africa. Stay tuned for our update on the conference's opening ceremony, which takes place at the Abuja Sheraton and Towers tonight at 7 PM.

*Reported by Amanda Hale

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