in the military
Egbewunmi Coordinator Armed Forces Programme on AIDS Control (AFPAC)
allow me to make these few contributions on the issue of
HIV/AIDS and the Nigerian military. I hope with this, a lot of
people will be better informed on the efforts being taken by
the military to combat the scourge from the program point of
view and more importantly hope that this will generate
comments and contributions on this topic.
however first apologize for this late entry.
Nigerian military has been very active in the control of the
scourge of HIV/AIDS. Even as far back as 1987 when the public
awareness was virtually non-existent, the Armed Forces of
Nigeria has been playing the vital role of raising awareness
among its troops. Great thanks to the efforts of senior
colleagues like Brig Gen SO Njoku and Col (Rtd) Ibojie,
consultant haematologists in the Army whose efforts then
culminated into the outfit that we have now, Armed Forces
Programme on AIDS Control (AFPAC).
words of the Chief of Administration, Defence Headquarters in
one of AFPAC's workshops recently "The combat readiness
of members of the Armed Forces in any country is of paramount
importance and must not be jeopardized. HIV/AIDS presents a
great threat to the well being of our personnel with grave
economic and security implications if left unchecked. The
Defence Headquarters is therefore fully committed to eliminate
all factors that could affect the combat readiness of our
troops including HIV/AIDS. Towards the realization of this, we
will continue to support and promote all meaningful programmes
aimed at checking the HIV/AIDS scourge in all Military
control activities in the Nigerian Armed Forces date back to
1987 and these eventually led to the establishment of the
Armed Forces Program on AIDS Control (AFPAC) in 1993. AFPAC
has since inception been responsible for planning and
implementing various programs aimed at controlling the
HIV/AIDS scourge within the armed forces.
HIV/AIDS control activities reflect a multi-sectoral approach.
HIV/AIDS is treated as a welfare issue and not just a health
problem. Consequently all interest groups such as Officers'
wives associations, PLWHAs, teachers, instructors, commanders
and religious leaders in the military communities are involved
in the prevention and care efforts.
coordinates and monitors all HIV/AIDS control activities
within the Armed Forces. It is involved in training of Armed
Forces personnel through seminars and workshops. Each of the
three services is represented in AFPAC by Service AIDS Control
Coordinators thus ensuring a teamwork approach.
achievements have been made in the area of awareness,
production of basic information, education and communication,
routine surveillance and screening of troops, and the adoption
of an approved Policy Guidelines on AIDS control within the
Armed Forces of Nigeria. Studies have shown that the level of
awareness among the troops is quite high but the behaviour
they engage in are not in line with the level of knowledge.
Hence, emphasis in HIV/AIDS control in the Armed Forces is now
in the area of behaviour-change interventions.
an Armed Forces Technical Advisory Committee on AIDS (AFTACA)
was inaugurated with the mandate of policy formulation and
giving technical support to the control program. AFTACA is
made up of experts in the various fields of clinical
management, laboratory services and preventive education.
Forces HIV/AIDS/STI Project funded by USAID with Family Health
International, Nigeria as the Implementing Partner, is being
implemented presently. Activities in the project are
essentially behaviour-change interventions. Participants at
activities of the project are drawn from the three services
based on a ratio, which takes cognizance of the relative
population of the three services. Civilian employees of
Ministry of Defence including officers' wives are also
involved in some of the activities that are relevant to them.
In addition, Policy Project Nigeria is another Implementing
Partner Agency of USAID and has been giving tremendous support
to the control programme in the Armed Forces.
elements of the program
Formative research b. KAP/Prevalence study to be conducted by
Policy Project Advocacy package will be developed from these
and will be utilized for sensitization and advocacy meetings
health educators curriculum development and training - For
armed forces personnel and allied civilian - Students of
Command Secondary Schools. Anti AIDS clubs will also be
established in these schools
& C training with establishment of counseling centers.
logistics workshop with the establishment of condom outlets
Military training institutions -sensitization meetings
-development of modules -HIV/AIDS/STIs integration into
curricula -workshop for teachers
-training as peer counselors -outreach workers to be trained
to conduct home visits -sharing of care and support
activities include: -World AIDS Day campaign activities
annually -IEC materials development, pre-testing and
production -International Conferences
Forces HIV/AIDS Week
edition of the Armed Forces HIV/AIDS Week in Nigeria took
place in armed forces locations in the country from 20th to
25th March 2001. The control of HIV/AIDS is supposed to be a
command responsibility; hence participation in the activities
of the week was another way of assessing commitment on the
part of the commanders.
Forces HIV/AIDS Week is designed to reinforce our awareness,
with activities going on in all armed forces locations
simultaneously during the period. It seeks to remind our
leaders, commanders at all levels of their responsibilities.
Incidentally this HIV/AIDS Week is the first of its type in
any country's armed forces and with this, the Nigerian Armed
Forces has set the pace for others to follow. It is designed
to be an annual event henceforth until the chain of HIV
transmission in our midst is completely broken. The last week
of March 2002 has been fixed tentatively for this year's Armed
Forces HIV/AIDS Week.
activities of the Armed Forces HIV/AIDS/STI Project
of the Armed Forces HIV/AIDS/STI Project funded by the USAID
started in earnest in February 2001. Reports from the three
services confirm their active participation and adequate
representation in the following activities, which have been
held so far. These include: (a) Uniformed Services Working
Group Meeting held in Accra Ghana from February 26 to March 2,
2001 (b) Armed Forces HIV/AIDS Awareness Week held from 20-25
March 2001 (c) Project Management Training held between 18 and
20 April 2001 (d) Formative Research conducted in selected
units of the three services between May and June 2001 (e)
Study on Knowledge, attitudes, behaviour and practices (KABP)
of Armed Forces personnel to HIV/AIDS/STI, which was sponsored
by POLICY Project/Nigeria between 11 and 22 June 2001.
activities in the service
period under review, HIV/AIDS Control Committees were
reconstituted in the Army and the Air Force. Lectures were
arranged for secondary school students in schools of the three
services in Lagos in collaboration with the Lagos State branch
of the Retired Armed Forces and Police Officers Wives
Association (RAFPOWA) and Officers' Wives Associations of the
screening and distribution of condoms to military personnel
for foreign missions took place during the period under
review. Preventive education was also provided for youths in
of peer health educators
personnel of the three services and the Ministry of Defence
have been trained in July and August as trainers of Peer
Health Educators. They were selected from military units in
all the states of the federation, to replicate such training
by training Peer Health Educators (PHEs) in armed forces units
in the different states. It is estimated that not less than
3000 PHEs will be trained in turn by these trainers. The PHEs
will include serving officers and men, officers' wives, other
ranks wives, magajiyas, unit RSMs, youths etc. Training of
PHEs is going on in military locations in about 10 states
Materials Development Workshop
to develop information, education and communication materials
specific to the military communities was held at AFPAC with
representation from the three services, Ministry of Defence
and Officers wives. Participants were drawn from education,
public relations department and medical. The workshop lasted
for 12 days. The materials developed have been pre tested and
are being produced now.
from the Honourable Minister
Honourable Minister of Defence made some pledges to AFPAC
during the Armed Forces HIV/AIDS Week earlier this year. The
utility vehicle and multimedia projector pledged have been
issued to AFPAC. He also directed that video films of the SFH
drama staged on the day be mass-produced and sent to all
units. With these, AFPAC has created a mobile film unit that
moves about from one barracks location to the other to project
films on HIV/AIDS/STI and enlighten the barracks communities.
More office accommodation has also been secured at the
Ministry of Defence Annex at the present AFPAC location at
Moloney Street, Lagos.
with the national policy, plan is on to integrate Tuberculosis
control into the Armed Forces HIV/AIDS Control Programme. The
control of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) component of
the programme will also be given the necessary attention it
deserves. A workshop on syndromic management of STDs will soon
be organized for our health care providers.
recent importation of generic forms of anti-retrovirals into
the country, efforts are on to ensure armed forces personnel
living with HIV benefit from the exercise especially as the
cost is now more affordable. The modalities for management of
this issue are presently being worked out and the armed forces
will not be left behind.
been documented that peacekeeping soldiers worldwide have a
higher probability of becoming infected with HIV than of being
killed in military action. Peacekeepers therefore need to be
adequately prepared before and after each mission. The
Nigerian Armed Forces has been very active in peacekeeping
operations over the past years and AFPAC will not relent in
its effort in ensuring their adequate preparation for the
Wale Egbewunmi Coordinator Armed Forces Program on AIDS
Control (AFPAC) Defence Hq 17/27 Moloney St Lagos Nigeria