Thursday, November 1, 2007

Nigeria Triples Number Of HIV Treatment Centers, Fails To Meet Target Of Providing Antiretrovirals To 250,000 HIV-Positive People

Nigeria's National Action Committee on AIDS on Tuesday announced that the country has tripled its number of HIV treatment centers during the past year, enabling about 135,000 HIV-positive people in the country to access antiretroviral drugs, Reuters reports. However, the country failed to meet its target of providing 250,000 HIV-positive people with treatment access by the end of 2006.

About three million of Nigeria's 140 million people are living with HIV/AIDS -- the third highest HIV/AIDS caseload worldwide. Only 10% of people in need of treatment have access to it, according to the group ActionAid. The country's failure to meet targets on drug access and to demonstrate transparency in managing funds led the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in May 2006 to suspend about $50 million in grants, but the suspension later was lifted. The resulting funding issues affected the country's "ambitious" HIV/AIDS control plan, according to Reuters.

Nigeria established 210 no-cost antiretroviral treatment centers and provided 135,837 people with treatment access by the end of June, NACA Director-General Babatunde Osotimehin said. In May, the World Bank approved $50 million in additional funding for Nigeria to combat the spread of the disease. In addition, the country has signed an agreement with the Clinton Foundation to manufacture affordable antiretrovirals but still is in the process of passing a law that will allow local pharmaceutical companies to produce the drugs. An ActionAid report released in May said that efforts to provide HIV-positive people in developing countries with universal access to treatment by 2010 will fall short at their current pace. The report also said that Nigeria was among the countries with some of the lowest percentages of HIV-positive people receiving antiretrovirals (Reuters, 9/18).