Dr Sani Aliyu received his MBBS degree from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1993. He worked as a medical officer at State House Clinic until 1998 when he moved to the U.K. to pursue a postgraduate programme at Imperial College, London.
He was appointed to the first joint training post in Infectious diseases and Medical Microbiology at Cambridge University Hospitals in 2001. He completed a Masters programme in Medical Microbiology at Queen Mary University of London in 2003 with distinction and was awarded the Draper Company Prize for the overall best graduating student. At the end of his specialist training in Cambridge, Dr Aliyu worked briefly for a year as a consultant microbiologist in Birmingham before returning to Cambridge University Hospitals in 2008 as the first joint consultant in Infectious diseases and Microbiology.
Dr Aliyu has membership of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and is a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of the UK and the Royal College of Pathologists. He is also an associate lecturer at Cambridge University.
Before his appointment as the Director General of NACA, Dr. Aliyu was the Caldicott Guardian responsible for information governance and the Trust lead for antimicrobials at Cambridge University Hospitals. He was also the national Chair of the ID SCE Exam board until 2017, responsible for the delivery of Infectious diseases exit exams for trainees in the UK.
On resumption as Director General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Dr. Aliyu mobilized support of the government, partners and the civil society on the need to have a better understanding of Nigeria’s epidemic. He facilitated the inflow of resources from the US government and the Global Fund to fund the largest HIV-specific survey in world history. Other surveys targeted at key affected populations and those in prisons were also successfully concluded under his leadership.
Considering the polity as very pivotal to the successful funding of the epidemic through domestic resourcing, Dr. Aliyu engaged with political and private sector leaders at national and sub-national levels to mobilize significant resources for the AIDS response through strategic engagements. Under his leadership, the budgetary allocation to NACA grew by over 100% in two years. This meant more PLHIV placed on life saving drugs with government support. Additionally, he extracted commitment from the governors to allocate 0.5% of their monthly statutory allocation to AIDS response in their respective states. Partnering with the private sector, he established the HIV/AIDS Trust Fund to mobilize contributions of the private sector to the national AIDS response. The management structure of this fund is modelled after the Global Fund.
The integrity and trust Dr. Aliyu commands has turned Nigeria’s AIDS response into development partners’ comfort zone for investment. Barely a week after resumption, Dr. Sani Aliyu travelled to the Global Fund Headquarters in Geneva to negotiate the restoration of the NACA Global fund grant and committed to executing the grant in an efficient and transparent manner devoid of any financial risk. This action demonstrated his proactiveness, commitment, sense of purpose and sacrifice. Nigeria’s Global Fund grant which was suspended in 2015, was restored afterwards.
On resumption as DG NACA, Dr. Aliyu initiated an advocacy to end mother to child transmission of HIV in Nigeria. His strategy was to ensure every available resource was channelled towards this agenda. He mobilized government commitment at the highest level and championed the inclusion of PMTCT services in the benefit package of national and states health insurance schemes and the recently launched basic health care provision fund which targets women and children with free basic health care services.
Dr. Sani Aliyu had a productive working relationship with civil society, especially, especially people living with HIV and the key affected population by ensuring they have the opportunity to meaningfully contribute to the national response to AIDS. He provided funding for institutional and living support to PLHIV network in Nigeria and their members, regularly engaging with them and other civil society networks. He promoted and supported removal of all forms of barriers to access to services for vulnerable and key affected populations. He is very supportive of on-going reforms and governance strengthening of the Country Coordinating Mechanism of the Global Fund. He made it a duty to render his stewardship of Nigeria’s AIDS response to the Civil Society Accountability Forum each year.
Dr. Aliyu demonstrated a high sense of transparency in governance since resumption at NACA. He initiated the whistle blowing policy which encourages all staff to report any untoward or unethical behaviour directly to him via email and/or the use of a suggestion box. He also restructured the organization to be more efficient in its operations, whilst ensuring round pegs are put in round holes”. This brought a new energy and sense of purpose to the organization and its staff leading to improved performance, respect from all and a much improved corporate image for the organization.
Only recently, the United States government honoured Dr. Sani Aliyu as a “PEPFAR Hero.” The statement on the US government’s twitter handle reads “Dr. Aliyu led the Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey – the largest HIV-specific survey in history. Under his leadership as DG of NACA the survey was completed in a record 9 months and is pivotal in efforts to halt the epidemic.” He is also the recipient of the APIN Excellence in Service award in recognition of his dedicated service and commitment to Public Health in Nigeria.
Dr. Aliyu is a co-author in 69 peer-reviewed papers as well as four book chapters. publications span a wide range of varied interests developed over his career including molecular diagnostics, infectious disease epidemiology and antibiotic stewardship.