By Vivian Ihechu
The U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has commended the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) for their innovative and proactive researches.
Blinken made this known when he visited the NIMR on Wednesday in Lagos.
The visit was intended to discuss the history and evolution of NIMR from the early days of the HIV pandemic to current efforts to detect and respond to emerging health threats.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the American Secretary of State is on a working visit to some African nations.
Nigeria is the third country Blinken is visiting on his Africa tour aimed at building better bilateral relations and partnership with the African Continent.
The visit sees Blinken going to Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Angola.
Blinken’s visit, among others, is to discuss the U.S.-Nigeria bilateral relations and commitments made during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, including in the areas of climate, food security, and health security.
At NIMR, Blinken met with NIMR’s Director of Research and Acting Director-General, Prof. Oliver Ezechi and members of his team, Prof. Rosemary Audu, Director of Reserch, NIMR and Dr David Oladele, Deputy Director of Research, NIMR.
Ezechi represented NIMR’s Director-General, Prof. Babatunde Salako.
They discussed how HIV care had transformed over the last 20 years because of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) support.
Ezechi said NIMR had leveraged U.S. government’s investments through PEPFAR, the National Institutes for Health (NIH), and the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) to lead in the deployment and development of diagnostic technologies.
These technologies were deployed to detect, prevent and respond to emerging health threats.
The U.S. partnership with NIMR also includes collaboration with PMI on malaria surveillance, NIH on clinical and public health research and the
U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Global Health Programmes to improve TB diagnosis and treatment in Nigeria.
Blinken said the partnership between the U.S. and Nigeria, especially with the NIMR Reference and Clinical Research Centre, in the area of HIV/AIDS elimination, had been positive.
He said the U.S. had, through its global health security, worked closely with the Nigerian government, alongside other partners , to prevent, detect and respond to health threats including cholera and diphtheria.
This, he said, included providing support in areas like the health workforce, laboratory capacity and disease surveillance systems.
The NIMR scientists also presented diagnostic kits they had developed for COVID-19, MPox, yellow fever and lassa fever.
NAN reports that PEPFAR investments over the past 20 years have shaped NIMR as a public health leader in Nigeria and the region.
In 2002, NIMR became one of the first Nigerian institutions to provide HIV treatment.
With PEPFAR support through USAID, NIMR provides comprehensive HIV treatment to no fewer than 5,400 adults and nearly 100 children, and processed nearly 260,000 HIV viral load samples in the last year.
Also, NIMR’s PEPFAR-supported mega polymerase chain reaction reference laboratory is an essential member of a national integrated laboratory network for HIV, Hepatitis B and Human Papillomavirus care.
NIMR was one of the four PEPFAR supported laboratories for the COVID-19 pandemic response between 2020 and 2021.
It was also critical to national COVID-19 response efforts due to its ability to process high volumes of samples. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Dianabasi Effiong/Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma