Nigeria to launch AIDS treatment program

Nigeria, Africa’s third most AIDS-ravaged nation, will on September 1 launch a pilot program to treat thousands of sufferers with Indian-made generic antiretrovirals in a joint program with the UN, officials said Thursday. “There is a project that starts next month with 10,000 adults and 5,000 children,” United Nations AIDS expert Mustapha Aliyu told AFP.

The project was announced in April, at the AIDS summit in Abuja, by Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo, Aliyu said. To that end, the Nigerian health minister several weeks ago negotiated the purchase of generic antiretrovirals from the Indian pharmaceutical company CIPLA, the UN said. Nigeria successfully negotiated a deal wherein they would pay 350 dollars per person per year for the drugs, a price heretofore only available to humanitarian organizations, said UN special envoy for AIDS in Africa, Stephen Lewis, after a tour through Africa. The Nigerian government will assume the entire cost of the treatment, Aliyu said.

The drug cocktails, which help slow the progression of HIV-infection, can cost between 10 and 20 thousand dollars per year per person in developed nations, and have until now been inaccessible to poor nations. Aliyu said the pilot program hoped “to encourage people to come forward and to be able to be tested for HIV. Experts believe that the lack of treatment options is one of the principal obstacles to voluntary testing for AIDS in African countries.

Africa is the continent most ravaged by the AIDS pandemic, counting 25.3 million people living with HIV — comprising 70 percent of the 36.1 million AIDS sufferers worldwide. According to the UN, there are 2.7 million HIV-positive Nigerians, putting the continent’s most populous nation third behind South Africa and Ethiopia.

Source: Agence France Presse

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