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Etisalat offers technology platform to tackle AIDS, others

By ADEYEMI ADEPETUN
10 February 2015   |   11:00 pm
ACROSS the globe today, healthcare is significantly affected by technological advancements, as technology both shapes and changes health systems locally and globally.     Compared to other part of the world, when it comes to the influence of technology in health care on the African continent, seemingly small victories can lead to vast improvements.    …

ACROSS the globe today, healthcare is significantly affected by technological advancements, as technology both shapes and changes health systems locally and globally. 

   Compared to other part of the world, when it comes to the influence of technology in health care on the African continent, seemingly small victories can lead to vast improvements.

    As such, the recent collaboration in Nigeria, between telecommunications firm, Etisalat and the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) also brought to bear the importance, technology can play in the delivery of faster and reliable health care services.  

    The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed is targeted at stopping mother to child transmission of HIV. It is a process that will run on Etisalat’s platform.

    It is interesting to mention that today, Etisalat provides mobile telephone services to about 21 million Nigerians and has to larger extent enjoyed patronage from the populace.  

    At the signing in process in Lagos, the telecommunications firm said the campaign is to ensure that no child in Nigeria is born with HIV. 

    Etisalat disclosed that the MoU between it and UNAIDS will allow the about 21 million customers on the network to benefit from regular text messages on how and where to access prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV services in Nigeria.

    Recalled that in July 2011, a global plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children and keeping their mothers alive was launched at the United Nations general assembly high level meeting on AIDS. On its part, in November 2014, Nigeria unveiled the National Operational Plan for the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV 2015-2016 to jump-start the implementation of similar efforts in the country.

    It is against this backdrop that UNAIDS partnered Etisalat Nigeria to support the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), other government departments and the Civil Society to boost Nigeria’s efforts to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

     Speaking at the MoU signing, Vice President, Regulatory and Corporate Affairs, Etisalat Nigeria, Ibrahim Dikko said the telecommunications firm was happy to partner with UNAIDS and NACA for such a unique cause. 

    “We recognize that a nation can only be economically buoyant if it has a healthy population. This we are committed to building, by attacking its most deadly threats, one of which is HIV/AIDS. We are joining hands with these strategic and effective organisations, and together we will drive the promotion of life and health, for Nigerians in general, persons living with HIV, children yet unborn.”  

      Dikko, who said the firm’s Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy, aligned the organisation’s business growth strategy with societal goals.    

      The Etisalat Chief said the CSR initiatives is to forge a robust relationship between the firm and key stakeholders through viable products and services, ethical business practices, and contributing to the sustainable development of society utilising three platforms – Education, Health and the Environment.

   According to him, a nation can only be economically buoyant if it has a vibrant and strong work force, and a healthy population; hence the firm’s selection of health as one of its key platforms for CSR interventions. 

         “On this we are working with credible NGOs locally and internationally. We have also partnered with the government at different levels – state and Federal, in effectuating this mission to eradicate malaria from Nigeria; with giant strides to show for it”, he stated.

     The Etisalat VP recalled that in response to the Ebola Virus Disease incidence in Nigeria last year, the firm deployed a strategic approach to combating it – utilizing our ultra-fast 3.75G data network to assist in mapping areas of infection, and to track movement of persons exposed to the disease, adding that the firm also distributed lines loaded with airtime to state governments across the geo-political zones, to facilitate much-needed communication. 

 Speaking on the menace of AIDS and HIV, Dikko said the menace has continued to be major global public health issues, claiming well over 35 million lives to date.  He stressed that sub-Saharan Africa has been the most affected location, accounting for about 70 per cent of the total number of new HIV infections globally. 

     According to him, with the goal to terminate the menace in Nigeria by 2030, there is a more pressing goal that feeds into this – that by 2020, no child born to an HIV positive mother in Nigeria will be infected by the virus during pregnancy and birth, on in the course of breastfeeding.   

   To him, HIV and opportunistic infections contribute to its place at number two, on the major causes of deaths in Africa. 

    “We are today taking this one step further, by entering into partnership with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), to reduce the incidence of mother to child transmission of HIV and ultimately ensure that no child in Nigeria is born with HIV. This aspect is one of the greatest challenges to combating HIV globally; and by joining forces on this partnership we will be nipping in the bud the potential birth of new generations of HIV positive Nigerians. We will use our considerably wide network to disseminate critical information on prevention of mother-to-child transmission and ensuring that mothers who are HIV positive stay active, well and productive. 

      “We believe that our success is wholly dependent on the success of people and economies that we actively support. Our services and technologies keep customers connected; simultaneously we have programmes such as these, that promote life and health; opening doors to explore new opportunities for different stakeholder groups – customers, host communities, the general public”, he stated.

      Speaking on the partnership, Director-General, NACA, Prof. John Idoko, the initiative is bound to avail more avenues of stopping new HIV infections in Nigeria. “We welcome this new impetus Etisalat is bringing to the HIV response in Nigeria.”

    Idoko said it was an area that Nigerian has the greatest burden, but “it is one area where we can save lives given that if nothing is done for children who contract the virus from their mothers, most of them are dead by the age of 5.”

   The NACA boss said it is imperative to eliminate HIV transmission from mother to child, stressing that HIV is related to co-infections (hepatitis, malaria) and others, but “tackling this menace is what is being considered by the UN in the Sustainable Development Goals for Health.” I spoke to the NACA call centre as a medium for disseminate information   

     In his own submission, UNAIDS Country Director for Nigeria and the UNAIDS focal point for the ECOWAS, Dr. Bilali Camara noted that ending the HIV epidemic among children in Nigeria by 2020 will result in preventing 240,000 new HIV infections among children and an additional 460,000 new HIV infections among adults.

   According to him, “in all, we are looking at preventing 340,000 AIDS-related deaths and a net benefit of $30 billion, with 12 million life-years gained.”