MOVES to improve research on HIV and patient care, especially in the military, received a boost yesterday as the Federal Government commissioned a modern Defence Reference Laboratory (DRL) in Abuja.
The facility, built in partnership with the United States (U.S.)-based Walter Reed Programme in Nigeria at the Mogadishu Cantonment, Abuja, would provide the platform for “precise diagnosis and reliable laboratory test” that is required for HIV management.
Minister of State Defence, Olusola Obada, said besides HIV infections, the “laboratory, which is the hub of other Nigeria Ministry of Defence - United States Department of Defense (NMOD-USDOD) HIV programme sites, has the capacity to carry out several diagnostic investigations”, such as tuberculosis, malaria and other infectious diseases.
She said it was the best in Nigeria if not West Africa and would help in “strengthening of indigenous capabilities and a drastic reduction in dependence on facilities abroad for similar services”.
Obada said the “full commencement of activities at the DRL would lead to great improvement in the laboratory capability of HIV programme and ultimately translate to better patient care.” It is expected to “promote the health of the troops, thereby ensuring their combat fitness for international peace support operations and internal security challenges”.
The United States (U.S.) Ambassador to Nigeria, Terrence McCulley, said the Walter Reed Programme in Nigeria was part of his country’s USD500 million President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). “The DRL is a critical piece for healthcare, enabling world-class diagnostic and laboratory monitoring services for military personnel and the civilian population living in the surrounding communities”, he noted.
The Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin, said given the numerous “exotic health” challenges that had bedeviled the world today, the centre was “a critical structure in the health delivery system in the Nigeria military”, as the research results would be used to facilitate the “improvement of the health condition of some Nigeria military personnel” and prepare them for an eventuality.
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