Nigeria does not know number of people with HIV, says minister
Inaugurates National Health Data governance council
Two years after, the Federal Government has inaugurated a National Health Data Governance Council (HDGC), which would provide framework for the management of data in the country.
The Council chaired by the Minister of Health is a prescription of the Nigeria Health Information System policy 2014 to provide leadership and guidance on health data governance in the country.
Inaugurating the council in Abuja, Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole said that Nigeria has had the challenge of dealing with data adding that unavailability of accurate data has created a lot of problem for the country adding that the validity of the data on Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) burden in Nigeria is questionable.
Adewole who argued that the country does not really know the number of Nigerians who are HIV positive, said that the ministry may conduct a single nationwide population-based study on HIV to determine the prevalence of HIV in Nigeria and to find out the number of people who know their status, the number of pregnant women who are positive.
Adewole observed that the ministry had in the 2017 budget proposed to put about 100,000 HIV patients on treatment”.
He said, “When in Geneva, the data on HIV/AIDs burden across the world was being displayed, Nigeria was left blank and to me it was a major surprise, when I asked why, I was told that the data in Nigeria has been validated. We believe that this type of situation, which is very embarrassing, should never happen again. We don’t really know the number of people who are HIV positive in this country, we have an estimate of three million people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria and the prevalence is said to be about four per cent but we are beginning to question the validity of the data because when we get to the field to test. About 100 people, you may not find one”.
According to the minister, “This unavailability of accurate data has created a lot of problems for us because most of the agencies fund us based on the figure. They tell you if you can test a particular number of people or place a particular number of patients on treatment, we will support you with specific amount of money and they pay you in advance but when you test them, you can’t find those cases and our agencies ran into trouble because they have this money and the money was used on things that are not related to the challenge. You find out that out of three million, you have been able to put only 800.000 on treatment. We don’t even know whether the total number is one million.”
Adewole advised the technical working group to look at this National Health Data Governance Council policy, which was put in place in 2014 to find out if it is still relevant and whether it is due for review.
“Good data will help avoid duplication of efforts and waste of money. Data is also a security issue, when you look at polio data; it is so sensitive it includes the household mapping. This body should have a say in tracking the amount of money coming into the health sector. We tend to concentrate only on federal allocation and ignore moneys from states, local governments, international bodies in order to know how much we spend on the health system and show the world that we can use them well.”
Terms of Reference for the Council includes:
*To develop a mechanism for pooling resources across different government agencies and partners which would be used in financing the National Health Information System (HIS)
*Track the amount of money allocated to HIS and the amount released for each years
*Ensure the maintenance of the integrity of HIS architecture and
*Identify challenges regarding the non-release of funds and instituting a mechanism for improving the release of funds among others.