Nigeria’s Promise of AIDS Drugs Raises Hopes, Decreases Disease Stigma, Boston Globe Reports
Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries are set to distribute a "meager round" of discounted anti-HIV drugs this month, but only Nigerians who can afford the therapy will receive the treatments at this time, the Boston Globe reports. Although more than four million Nigerians are HIV-positive, there are only drugs available for 10,000, creating an "ethical problem for doctors," Dr. John Idoko said. Idoko, who has run AIDS drug clinical trials for three years for GlaxoSmithKline, helped establish a regional laboratory to test immunity levels in people with HIV/AIDS and began Halt AIDS, a prevention and education program, said that he has been "inundated" with requests for medication in the past several weeks. According to the Globe, "just the whiff of a promise of treatment is revolutionizing the entire strategy of fighting AIDS in Africa. Suddenly, in a land where almost everyone was unwilling even to discuss the disease, people are asking to be tested. Before the promise of anti-AIDS drugs, people had little reason to learn if they were infected." When Nigeria was under the rule of military dictator Sani Abacha, who died in 1998, there was no government spending on AIDS prevention or education. But last year the government appropriated $100,000 for AIDS, and this year Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo increased the amount to $20 million. However, given the country's reputation for corruption, the question is whether the money will be well spent, and "whether the country can develop a workable plan to use it," the Globe reports (Donnelly, Boston Globe, 5/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.