Tuesday, 30 December 2014

NAFDAC intercepts fake Tramadol Capsules


The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has began investigations to unveil those behind the importation of 158 cartons of fake Tramadol Capsules, a semi-synthetic opiod analgesic for the management of pain. Announcing the interception of the truck load of the counterfeit medications in Lagos, weekend, NAFDAC’s Director, Ports Inspection Directorate, Mrs. Maureen Ebigbeyi said, the NAFDAC enforcement has commenced investigations to apprehend the persons behind the importation. 

Ebigbeyi said the cartons containing the Tramadol Capsules 120mg, have no label. Neither do they have addresses to show name of the producing company and the country of manufacture. However, with intelligence works and investigations, she said NAFDAC enforcement will definitely get the importers of these products. The drugs, which are in high demand and often abused when taken at overdose level to keep alert, were brought in as transit products to the Republic of Benin, but ended up being intercepted when NAFDAC detectives observed that although, the destination country of the drug is the Republic of Benin, a French speaking country, the drugs are labelled in English Language. 

Photo: From L-r: Mrs Christiana Obiazikwor,  Head of Public Relations
National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC)
Lagos,  Mrs Maureen Ebigbeyi, Director, Port Inspectorate Directorate,
NAFDAC, Mr. Hassan Abubakar Tanko, Regulatory officer, NAFDAC
Port during the press briefing on the seizure of unregistered TRAMADOL 
According to international law, if a product is going to be used in a particular country, they will be labelled in the language of that country. However, NAFDAC’s Director of Ports Inspection Directorate explained that because these drugs were labelled in English, “it is very certain that as they (the importers) know we are looking out for them, they will just move them to the Republic of Benin and bring them back to Nigeria. That is the reason we have intercepted these drugs.” She explained that when a consignment is on transit to another country, it is not usually allowed to be inspected, but because we know the style of drug counterfeiters, when we see such things, NARCO Shed handlers allow us to come in and take possession of them. “We have been working with NARCO Shed handlers, hence, when we see such things, they allow us to come in and take possession of them,” she explained. Besides, the director noted that normally, Tramadol should be either 50mg or 100mg, depending on the level of pain involved, the intercepted Tramadol is 120mg. What this means for the person that takes the drug is that the fellow will almost be taking an overdose, Ebigbeyi lamented, adding, “With overdose, you have more side effects and even it could lead to adverse effects.” 

Tramadol is presently, under Narcotics Control following high abuse and concerns by government and public health officials, meaning that it cannot be brought into the country without permit. Hence, Ebigbeyi said NAFDAC is putting all efforts to ensure that this drug of abuse is not easily accessed in the society. However, she noted that some unscrupulous people have gone ahead to bring a huge quantity of Tramadol to sell to unsuspecting people who will take this fake drug and be affected one way or the other. This interception is a landmark effort on the part of the NAFDAC officers who have been very vigilant at the NARCO Cargo Shed to ensure that fake and adulterated food and other unregistered NAFDAC Products do not come into this country, she said, adding, “We really want to warn the public that they should look out for this particular Tramadol Capsules with a high milligramme content.”

This story was published in Newswatch Times on October 3,  2013.

Govt urged to privatise clinical services in public health institutions – PSN

By: Chioma Umeha

The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) has condemned the use of 88 per cent of health budget on recurrent expenditure, of which 82.5 per cent is dedicated to human resources overheads. Giving the breakdown, the PSN National President, Olumide Akintayo, said that about 61 per cent is gulped by salaries of sometime an over bloated clinical staff in federal health institutions of the total cost reserved for healthcare and staff emoluments. 

Akintayo a press briefing on the World Pharmacists Day, organised by the association at its corporate office, Pharmacy House, Anthony, Lagos, lamented that over 50 per cent of total health budget is dedicated to paying only one cadre of personnel in healthcare, in recent times. The PSN boss therefore called on immediate intervention of every level of government to cut down the 88 per cent recurrent expenditure on personnel emolument of some clinical staff and divert same to other capital projects as well as research and development initiatives. He regretted that Nigeria’s health budget has not exceeded six per cent, since the country joined other African countries to sign the ‘Abuja declaration’ in 2001 which stipulated that participating governments should dedicate 15 per cent of their budgets to healthcare. His words: “In 2001, the various Heads of Government of different African states met in Abuja and resolved under what is now popularly dubbed the Abuja declaration that National Governments should dedicate 15 per cent of their budgets to Healthcare. He continued: “Despite being a signatory to this declaration, the highest that has ever been dedicated to health since 2001 by the federal government is a meager six per cent of National budget in 2012.” 

He said the budget situation is inimical to the health system, insisting that this leads to worsening state of health infrastructure in the country. He said: “We at the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria continue to critically evaluate healthcare expenditure as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product and the analysis paints a very dangerous picture. He added: “The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria has observed that over 88 per cent of health budgets are dedicated to only recurrent expenditure. Out of this huge cost a whopping 82.5 per cent is dedicated to only personnel expenditure. “Of the total cost reserved for healthcare, staff emoluments about 61 per cent is gulped by salaries of sometime an over bloated clinical staff in Federal Health Institutions. In apocalyptic terms, what has played out in recent years is that over 50 per cent of total health budget is dedicated to paying only one cadre of personnel in healthcare, Akintayo. “The unfortunate scenario depicted above is one of the reasons why healthcare infrastructure remains in a limbo and endeavours which facilitate Research and Development are completely comatose in an ever dynamic health sector in the global arena,” he concluded. 

According to him, there is need to harness    the    potential    of    the    private sector    in redressing the country’s healthcare needs by promoting privatization of the services of public health institution in the country. “The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria is compelled to call on the federal government and indeed government at all levels to see an urgent need to drastically reduce the unproductive recurrent expenditure invested in personnel emolument of some clinical staff which can be diverted to fruitful capital projects as well as Research and Development initiatives,” Akintayo said. The PSN boss particularly advocated for the privatisation of some level of clinical services especially at the out-patient department levels – primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare in the country. He noted this approach will involve the use of proven private sector players from private hospitals to take over the running of some services in public sector hospitals. “In some areas where service might be in higher demand clinical service providers might be hired on locum basis as we have seen been successfully implemented by some state governments in Nigeria,” he said. 

The advantages inherent in this model are numerous, Akintayo said, adding that it is a check to incessant strike embarked by health institutions that suppose to provide services to the masses. The National President also noted that the value of the private sector in the area of service delivery which has remained under-utilized will be fully utilized in the health sector. He further reasoned that in the absence of an active public clinical service provider at some of the delivery points in the hospitals, government can dedicate more funds to revamp infrastructure and equipment of secondary and tertiary levels in particular. He said that the Nigeria institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development as well as Nigeria Institute of Medical Research will also be beneficiaries of the process as substantial votes to these institutions will ultimately re-position healthcare in the country. Speaking on the theme of the year’s event which is: “Pharmacists – Simplifying your medicines use, no matter how complex,” Akintayo said it parallels the theme of the 73rd FIP world congress: “Towards a future vision for complex patients: integrated care in a dynamic continuum.” He observed: “Change is sweeping pharmacy and healthcare on a global scale. 

A new era of healthcare development brings with it much hope. As more solutions become available to patients – whether they are medicines, therapies or services provided by healthcare providers, pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists can help with their ever more complex care, the National President said. He said: “Our pharmacists need to move away from the traditional role of just dispensing medicines to helping patients use their medicines more efficiently with the ultimate goal of optimizing the impact of medicines, minimising the number of medication related problems and reducing waste. “Our pharmacists need to be empowered to provide this much needed service to people in the community. Government bodies and other healthcare professionals need to understand the impact that pharmacists can have in promoting and increasing adherence to medicines and give their full support and collaboration to improve the health and wellbeing of the population,” Akintayo said. 

He also said that pharmacists will devise strategies to help complex patients and tailor pharmacy education to optimize patient care as part of future initiatives in meeting global and international standards. 

This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 28,  2013.

Simple things that reduce stroke risk - Continued


Stay Healthy 

Hold your breath 
You can do this when you are around a smoker. University of Auckland researchers found that people exposed to second-hand smoke are 82 per cent more likely to suffer a stroke than those who never inhale. It seems that carbon monoxide promotes clot formation by interfering with nitric oxide, a biochemical that relaxes blood vessels. To get rid of every single bit of carbon monoxide after a night at the bar, you will have to breathe fresh air for about eight hours. But most of the carbon monoxide will be gone from your body in the first hour, according to Laurence Fechter, a professor of toxicology at the University of Oklahoma. So on your way home, make sure you roll down the car windows and start sucking in some clean air. 

Beat Homocysteine 
Research suggests that people with high blood levels of this amino acid are more likely to stroke out than those with low readings. Extra folate will help reduce the risk, but only for some people. “50 to 60 per cent will not respond with lower homocysteine,” said Dr. Seth J. Baum, medical director of the Mind/Body Medical Institute, a Harvard affiliate. Dr. Baum recommends 1,000 micrograms (mcg) of folate, plus 25 milligrams (mg) of vitamin B6, 1,000 mcg of B12, and 1,800 mg of the amino acid N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC). “With folate, B6, B12, and NAC supplements, almost everyone will have normal homocysteine levels,” said Dr. Baum. 

Pick up an iron supplement 
Aerobic exercise is anti-stroke medicine. If you cannot run or cycle to save your life; then, lift. Dr. Jerry Judd Pryde, a physiatrist at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles said: “Regular resistance training decreases blood pressure, elevates HDL cholesterol, lowers LDL cholesterol, and decreases the stickiness of the blood.” If you do not already weight-train, try the American Heart Association programme: Lift weights two or three times a week, targeting the major muscle groups. For each of the following, choose a weight you can lift eight to 12 times at most, and do one set to fatigue: bench press, shoulder press, lying triceps extension, biceps curl, seated row, lat pull down, crunch, squat, Romanian dead lift and calf raise.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 28,  2013.

MDGs 5: Nigeria faces bottlenecks in curbing 75% maternal deaths

By: Chioma Umeha

Mixed reactions greeted the news of the death of Margaret Akingbehin, a 45-year-old pregnant woman early February. She died at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, (LUTH) Idi-Araba in Lagos due to alleged dereliction of duty by health care personnel. According to reports, Margret died after an agonising contraction and still-birth while waiting for surgery. For the Akingbehin’s family, their joy was untold over the pregnancy of Margret which came after 12 years she had her last child. Margaret in agreement with her husband, David registered for ante-natal at LUTH, where they were sure she would receive adequate care. 

She had a record of regular attendance of ante-natal appointments from medical officials at LUTH. The elated couple was said to have committed N2m to refurbish their home in expectancy of the bundle of joy. Margret was due between February and March, but she was scheduled for a Caesarean Section (CS) based on age.  Consequently, she quickly reported to the hospital when she noticed certain changes in her body. In fact, reports said that Margret quickly picked her purse, hospital card and drove her Sport Utility Vehicle to LUTH and later informed her husband who was not at home at the time. However, Margret was said to have died after a still birth of her baby following alleged negligence by nurses. According to reports, she was kept waiting at the pre-surgical room of the theatre from 7.00am to 4.00 pm, where she died in pains following contractions, immediately after the still birth. Margret is just one out of 1500 deaths per 100,000 live births across the country. 

In Nigeria, pregnancy and childbearing is a dangerous business, especially for poorer women. Africa’s most populous nation with about 160 million or more has one of the highest maternal mortality rates. According to the WHO/United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), in 1995, Nigeria had the third highest number of maternal deaths in the world (approximately 45000 deaths). By the year 2000, for every 100,000 live births, about 800 women died in the process of child birth. Out of the 27 million Nigerian women of reproductive age back then about two million did not survive either pregnancy or childbirth. In 2008, according to UN report, the figure stood at between 1000 and 1500 deaths per 100,000 live births. The State of the World Children Report 2009 stated that one out of nine global maternal deaths occurred in Nigeria. At the moment, the country ranks second on maternal mortality rate in the world with about 144 girls and women dying daily from complication of pregnancy and child birth. 

One in every 18 women die giving birth compared to one in 4800 in the US. According to the survey conducted in February 2010, the record stands at between 165 per 100,000 live births in the South West and 1549 per 100,000 live births in the North East. World Health Organization (WHO) 2006 defines maternal death as the death of women while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy from any cause related to, or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management but not from accidental or incidental causes. Maternal mortality is a multi–dimensional problem which does not only affect the family involved but has a great effect on the society as a whole. The death of a woman during pregnancy, labour or pueperium is a tragedy that carries a huge burden of grief and pain, and has been described as a major public health problem in developing countries. When a mother dies, the children’s chances of reaching adult life is slim. This is majorly due to lack of everyday care and security. 

The young children may have to take care of themselves and this may in turn affect their school attendance. Lack of proper education may in turn weaken the child’s chances of reaching better life standards. Monitoring maternal mortality is difficult due to poor reporting and lack of proper methods to measure actual death rates. Estimating the real figure is difficult as only 31 per cent women deliver in health facilities. The gap of maternal deaths between rich and poor countries is wide with 99 per cent of these deaths occurring in the developing world. Out of the 49 countries which record highest maternal deaths, 34 of these countries are in Sub – Saharan Africa, where one woman in 16 dies from pregnancy or childbirth compared to one in 2800 in the developing world.  Some bleed to death at home because, amongst other reasons, they could not afford the transport to the facility. UNICEF observes that maternal mortality have many triggers, both direct and indirect. 

Poorly funded and culturally inappropriate health and nutrition services, food insecurity, inaccurate feeding practices and lack of hygiene are direct causes of mortality in both children and mothers. The indirect causes may be less obvious externally, but play just as large a role in mortality statistics. Female illiteracy adversely affects maternal and child survival rates and is also linked to early pregnancy. In many countries, especially where child marriage is prevalent, the lack of primary education and lack of access to healthcare contribute significantly to child and maternal mortality statistics. UNICEF also notes that discrimination and exclusion of access to health and nutrition services due to poverty, geographic and political marginalization are factors in mortality rates as well. The major reported causes of maternal deaths in developing world are: severe maternal bleeding; infections; obstructed or prolonged labour; unsafe abortion; hypertensive disorders of pregnancy especially eclampsia. 

Others are hemorrhage, sepsis, toxemia and complications from abortion account for 62 per cent of maternal deaths in Nigeria. According to research, the North West has the highest maternal mortality rate, seconded by North-East. Death from post partum hemorrhage (PPH) ranges between 23 per cent and 44 per cent of total maternal deaths especially in the Northern States. The ratio of women dying from PPH is 1 in 6 in the North East and North West as against one in 18 between South West and South East geopolitical zones. A break-down of the statistics is: eclampsia – 27 per cent, PPH – 25 per cent, infection – 15 per cent, unsafe abortion – 13 per cent and other causes – 20 per cent. Other health issues which affect women chances of healthy livelihood in the pre-natal and post partum period are high blood pressure, cancer, heart conditions and other non-communicable diseases. HIV/AIDS is an additional new concern for maternal/child health survival. Another statistics showed the break-down as follows: bleeding – 17 per cent, hypertension – 19 per cent, anaemia – 12 per cent, unsafe abortion – 11 per cent, infections – 10 per cent; obstructed labour – seven per cent and other causes – 24 per cent. Studies has also underlying factor of most maternal deaths is ignorance and apathy by women and the society in general. Commenting, a Head of Department (HOD) at LUTH who preferred to remain anonymous said that the attitude of doctors and nurses contribute to the increase of maternal deaths and morbidity in the country.  According to HOD, recent developments give credence to her claims. 

Making reference to Margret’s death, she insisted that the doctors and nurses were careless.  The HOD further lamented the poor state of primary health care in the country and reckless attitude of health care personnel who are only concerned about enriching their pockets rather than care for patients. According to her, many of the doctors are more interested in running their private hospitals than provide the services which they were employed to do. She noted that over 90 per cent of the doctors in public institutions own private hospitals which occupy them and makes it difficult for them to effectively carry out their duties. Condemning the trend, she said, “Though their private hospitals lack basic facilities, like oxygen, yet these doctors keep redirecting patients from a public institution like LUTH to their clinic.”  She further reasoned that this is one of the factors that led to Margret’s death. According to her, doctors were not on ground to attend to Margret. While grieving over Margret’s death, she said that the deceased represent hundreds of women who die across the country due to pregnancy-related issues. Dr.  Ejike Oji, former Ipas Boss in Nigeria, also described maternal health as a public health crisis. 

He said; maternal health is “The Paradox of our times,’ adding –  ‘a sine qua non to development.” The Ipas Chief observed that most women ignore early warning signs due to lack of adequate knowledge and information about danger signals during pregnancy and labour and so delay to seek care. Also, adequate preparation for any emergency before, during and after delivery is also lacking. He listed other factors which contribute to high incidence of maternal death to include: educational attainment, socio-economic status and antenatal attendance, poor socio-economic development, weak health care system and socio – cultural barriers to care utilization. According to him, one of the socio-cultural variables in the prediction of maternal mortality is early marriage which accounts for about 23 per cent of maternal mortality due to severe hemorrhage resulting from obstructed and prolonged labour. The narrow pelvis of these women may also result to fistula and often time still births. Similarly, the Ipas Director said that poor family planning practice contributes to maternal deaths. 

According to him, unsafe abortions accounts for at least 13 per cent of all maternal deaths. He reasoned that there will be a lot of unwanted pregnancies among the young age group who are not aware of good contraceptive methods. They often resort to unsafe abortion with its resultant infections, haemorrhage and injuries to the cervix and uterus. Oji said that family planning will lead to a 30 per cent reduction in maternal deaths, but regretted the country’s heavy dependence on donors. He said; “donors have been driving our FP services. It should be in the national budget.” “Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a major indirect cause of maternal mortality in Nigeria. It is a risk factor for obstructed labour. Pains, infections and haemorrhage result from FGM, as well as the risk of tetanus and even HIV infections. Problem following FGM is that scar tissue stretches poorly in child birth leading to perineal tear and haemorrhage which also accounts for maternal deaths due to inadequate emergency obstetric care,” Oji said. He further noted that inadequate obstetric and post partum care contributes to maternal death. His words; “about 69 per cent of women still give birth in a traditional setting either at home or in a Church. Only 30 per cent of people in the rural areas have access to health care within 4 km distance. 

The same issue is applicable to people in the urban setting.” This is even as lamented that most attendants of these births in the churches are unskilled. He also bemoaned the role of illiteracy and poverty in increasing the incidence of maternal death. “The lack of primary education and lack of access to health care contribute significantly to child and maternal mortality statistics,” he said. He reasoned that women who complete secondary education are more likely to delay pregnancy, receive prenatal and post natal care and have their birth attended to by qualified medical personnel. Oji called for creation of emergency transportation services, upgrade of  transportation system and enhancement of  referral systems to enable women to reach health care centres and receive appropriate care on time. Oji’s view corroborates with Dr. Mahmoud Fathalla, Former President of Federation of International Gynaecologists and Obstetricians (FIGO). Bemoaning the increasing incidence of maternal deaths, Both Oji and Fathalla agree that girl child education is essential in reducing maternal deaths. 

According to them, the South East (SE) is a good evidence for this strategy. Experts have called for massive investment in the country’s educational system. “The first health care system is in the house hold. The more educated the house hold the better equipped they are to provide care either by self or purchase,” Fathalla said. Observing that women don’t receive prompt care at health facilities, Fathalla advocated for provision of 24 -hour obstetric care; upgrade of  quality of care at health facilities; establishment of  national protocols to treat obstetric complications; ensuring  adequate stocks of medical supplies and blood. According to the obstetrician, enhancing referral systems between communities and health facilities will help to reduce maternal deaths. He insisted that a woman must be able to exercise control over her sexual and reproductive health if she is to achieve her fullest potential as a human being. He urged government, health care providers, development partners, legal practitioners, especially the International Federation of African Lawyers (FIDA) among many others to increase their commitment in empowering women to enable them exercise their reproductive rights. Experts believe that the growing incidence of maternal deaths is an unhealthy trend which has become a matter of great concern and are calling for concerted approach from stakeholders to curtail it. 

For instance, Fathalla, lamented; “Women are not dying   because of diseases we cannot treat. They are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving.” This is in line with the observation of Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan towards addressing poor health care in the continent including, high maternal deaths. Annan said: “It is my aspiration that health finally will be seen not as a blessing to be wished for, but as a human right to be fought for.” The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) focuses attention, resources, and action on improving the well-being of all peoples. Two of the goals (MDGs 4 and 5) were to reduce the childhood mortality rate and maternal mortality ratio, by two-thirds and three quarters (75 per cent), respectively between 1990 and 2015. It is expected that decline in maternal mortality must accelerate substantially in the period to 2015, if any country is to reach these goals. The maternal mortality rate of any country is very significant and has implications for the attainment of the MDGs. 

However, there are indications that Nigeria is lagging behind in achieving universal coverage of key maternal and child health intervention and will unlikely meet the target of the MDGs. According to UNICEF Executive Director, Ann Veneman, “midway to 2015 deadline for MDGs, Nigeria continues to record unacceptably high maternal, newborn and child mortality”. Nigeria ranks as one of the 13 countries in the world with the highest maternal mortality rate and is still not listed among the 10 countries seen to have made rapid progress to meet the goals. The circumstance surrounding the death of women like Margaret has thrown a poser which must be answered: How prepared is Nigeria to meet MDGs Target 4 and 5?

This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 26,  2013.

NIMR DG receives another award

By: Chioma Umeha

Director General (DG) of Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba Lagos, Professor Innocent Achanya Otoba Ujah, has added another feather to his long list of award in recognition of his valuable contributions to improve medical research and services as he received the Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN) ‘Health and Medical Awards’ on Thursday. Professor Ujah was among the four persons who were honoured by APBN during the association’s 29th Annual General Assembly (AGA) awards held at Golden Gate Restaurant, Ikoyi. 

Prof. Ujah is a recipient of many awards including Oyo State National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Chairman’s award in 1980; life membership award; and National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD) in 1987. In 1993 he received the Study Fellowship sponsored by Swedish agency for International and Technical Economic Cooperation, at the University of Uppsala Sweden, to study a diploma course on international maternal health. Most recently, Ujah received the Life Achievement Award by Lagos sector of Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria (SOGON) and Honours Award by Faculty of Medicine Sciences, for contributing to the building of College of Medical Sciences, University of Jos, while serving as a Dean of Faculty. Professor Ujah joined the services of the University of Jos and Jos University Teaching Hospital in 1988 as lecturer/consultant and was promoted Professor of obstetrics & gynaecology in 2001. 

Born on November 6, 1954 at Aidogodo-Okpoga in Okpokwu , Local Government Area (LGA) Benue State. He had his early education in Aidogodo Okpoga and Otukpo all in Benue state. He had secondary education at Government Secondary School, Katsina-Ala between January 1967 and December 1971, where he obtained his West African School Certificate (WASC). He attended Government College, Keffi for his Higher School Certificate (HSC) education, between, January 1972 and June 1973. Professor Ujah graduated from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria in June 1978 with an MBBS degree. He is a fellow of Medical College of Obstetrics & Gynaecology (FMCOG) of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria by examination, Fellow of International College of Surgeons (FICS) and Royal Society of Medicine of England (FRSMed). 

Professor Innocent Ujah is a specialist gynaecologist, endocrinologist and endocrine infertility. He also holds a Diploma in International maternal health care from University of Uppsala, Sweden. Professor Ujah has published over 70 scholarly articles in reputable national and international peer-reviewed journals, in addition to over 100 conference papers, abstracts and has delivered many lectures. He has attended many national and international conferences and presented a number of quality scientific papers. Others who received the awards are: Hajia Maryam Ladi Ibrahim, who received the ‘Financial Awards’ and Mr. Nweke O. Umezuruike who received the ‘Environment/Engineering/Construction  Awards’ and Adm. Josiah A. Okoronkwo, who was honoured with the ‘Management/Communication Awards.’

This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 28,  2013.

GLOBAL HIV/AIDS EPIDEMIC WILL BE ELIMINATED – UN • As incidence of same-sex continues to rise

By: Chioma Umeha

The global HIV/AIDS epidemic could be over by 2030, a leading UN official has said, as new figures showed that infection rates have dropped by a third since 2001. Globally, there were 2.3 million new HIV infections in 2012, down 33 per cent, while new infections among children have dropped even further, down 52 per cent to 260,000. 

Speaking in New York, Dr Luiz Loures, the deputy executive director of the United Nation’s HIV/AIDS agency (UNAIDS), said that ending the epidemic in just 17 years’ time was a “viable target”. The UN is set to exceed its own goal of providing HIV treatment to 15 million people in low and middle income countries by 2015.  Nearly 10 million people in these countries were accessing life-saving antiretroviral therapy by the end of 2012 – a 20-per-cent increase in just one year, according to UNAIDS’s 2013 Report on the global AIDS epidemic. 

Progress has been made both in the treatment and in the control of HIV, Dr Loures said. AIDS related deaths have dropped by 30 per cent, since peaking at 2.3 million worldwide in 2005. “I think that 2030 is a viable target to say that we have reached the end of the epidemic,” Dr Loures said. “HIV will continue existing as a case here or there but not at the epidemic level we have today… We can get to the end of the epidemic because we have treatments and ways to control the infection.” Significant progress has been made since the UN targeted HIV/AIDS epidemic in the landmark Millennium Development Goals, which set out goals for poverty and disease reduction for 2015. “Over the years, the gloom and disappointments chronicled in the early editions of the UNAIDS Global report on the AIDS epidemic have given way to more promising tidings, including historic declines in AIDS-related deaths and new HIV infections and the mobilisation of unprecedented financing for HIV-related activities in low- and middle-income countries,” said UNAIDS executive director Michel SidibĂ© in his introduction to this year’s report. 

However, the report also found that progress has been slow in securing HIV services for people most at risk of HIV infection, including men who have sex with men, sex workers and people who inject drugs. The report warns that, in many countries, fear of disapproval were still preventing people from such groups from seeking help. Speaking to The Independent, Dr Loures added that the shape of HIV epidemic had changed, and was now concentrated in regional and population-specific “hotspots” that could be found all over the world. The epidemic among men who have sex with men was still “out of control”, he said. 

“This is where the epidemic is increasing and requires special attention. Homosexual men are getting AIDS because [in many countries] they cannot come out, they cannot go to health centres, they cannot even buy a condom,” he said. On Monday, the UK pledged £1 billion to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, which would provide antiretroviral treatment to 750,000 people between 2014 and 2016, according to the Department of International Development (Dfid). 

This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 26,  2013.

Nigeria faces dearth of voluntary blood donors


Nigeria is currently reeling under the onslaught of serious dearth of safe blood and blood products with less than 10 per cent of citizens donating blood voluntarily. This is just as opinion leaders in the country, particularly, those in the rural communities have been enjoined to lead by example by donating blood voluntarily. 

The country is currently faced with a situation, whereby 60 per cent of all blood donations are from commercial donors and 30 percent from family replacement. Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, observed that 1,130,000 units of blood are collected annually in the country through the various types of donations as against 1,336,000 estimates of blood units required. The deficit, according to the Minister, has resulted in numerous preventable deaths especially among women and children and people living with certain diseases. 

A member of the Lagos State Blood Transfusion Committee (LSBTC) Mr. Solomon Eka, made the call during a blood donor drive organised by the LSBTC in conjunction with the State Water Corporation, maintained that as long as Nigerian opinion leaders are opposed to blood donation, the country will remain far from attaining the required blood units for survival of patients. Eka said: “Presently there are some opinion leaders that do not support blood donation. If these opinion leaders are meant to have a change of attitude, and also demonstrate by donating blood, their followers will also follow suit. So we need the opinion leaders to drive the campaign in the communities. 

To let people know that blood donation is not risky and is not having any negative effect.” In his lecture tagged; ‘Importance of Voluntary Blood Donation’, Eka explained that regular blood donation also helps refresh an individual’s blood. He said the State blood donation drive has helped discover hidden diseases in many persons walking around with blood disorders without knowing. Encouraging cultivation of the culture of donating blood every three months, he explained that not every donated blood is useable. ‘It is not everybody that can donate, you must attain certain criteria before you donate, which include; you must be 50 kg and above, blood pressure must be normal, PVC must at an acceptable level to avoid any unforeseen crisis. Only healthy people aged 18 -65 are likely to donate blood,’ he added. 

Chief Matron, Lagos State Water Corporation Staff Clinic, Aderoju Olusola, who observed that the exercise was part of their monthly health talk aimed at inculcating healthy living into the staff of the corporation. Olusola, who agreed that most Nigerians are afraid to donate blood out of fear, said donors stand to gain refreshed blood as well as prolonged life. Voluntary blood donation also provides support for persons in need of blood, accident victims, cancer patients, sickle cell anaemia patients and pregnant women in labour among others.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 26,  2013.

80% of heart disease caused by poor lifestyle habits – Experts


Heart disease is one of the most lethal disease killers and is particularly seen in overweight postmenopausal women. It is vital that women learn the truth about their heart disease risk and take action to protect themselves and their family.

In partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Heart Federation is to organise World Heart Day on September 29. Awareness events are hosted in more than 100 countries and this year’s theme is “Take the road to a healthy heart”.

According to the WHO, genetics is no longer the primary determinant in the development of heart disease and approximately 80 per cent can be attributed to poor lifestyle habits. In adults, unhealthy diets are linked to four of the top ten risk factors that cause premature death: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight and obesity, and high blood sugar that are commonly seen in diabetes.

Recent changes to diets, physical activity levels and how you live make you prone to heart disease. Diets high in animal fat, low in fresh vegetables and fruit, and high in alcohol have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Choose a diet that is low in bad fat and salt.

Scientists now understand that fat – especially fat around the stomach – can significant impact blood pressure, blood cholesterol levels, and interferes with the ability to use insulin effectively. Insulin is needed for energy and one’s metabolism. Body Mass Index (BMI) and stomach circumference are two standardized methods of measuring one’s cardiovascular risk. As one gets fatter, the risks of developing type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure significantly rises. Statistics show that 58 per cent of diabetes and 21 per cent of ischemic heart disease can be attributed to a BMI above 21.

Children are vulnerable too. Physical inactivity learned in childhood often continues into adulthood. This contributes to a child’s increased risk of heart disease and stroke later in life. Physical inactivity also contributes to overweight and obesity. Over-weight children are growing concern and can set them up to suffer from diabetes and heart disease at a younger age.

The vast majority of tobacco users began when they are adolescents and if a child’s parents smoke; they are three times more likely to smoke themselves. Smoking produces inflammation and damages the lining of blood vessels, increases blood clots and strokes, and negatively affects blood cholesterol levels.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 26,  2013.

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