Nigeria Facing Gaps in HIV/AIDS Awareness, Infrastructure; Could Result in Spread of Disease
Nigeria is facing a "huge gap" in awareness of HIV/AIDS issues that could "turn a serious national problem into a disaster," the Financial Times reports. Although the country currently has a lower HIV prevalence than other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria's "huge population" of 128 million people could mean that the country has the third highest number of HIV-positive people on the continent, according to the Nigerian Health Ministry. Nigeria also faces infrastructure and cultural diversity problems that could "overwhelm efforts to promote AIDS treatment and prevention," the Times reports. The government has established a national oversight group for its HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs, which aim to provide antiretroviral drugs to 10,000 HIV-positive adults and 5,000 HIV-positive children. But "big questions remain" about the programs' efficiency, according to the Times. The country has not yet received the drugs for the children's program, and some of the medicines for the adult program are not reaching hospitals or are being held by officials seeking "bribes in exchange for treatment," according to the Times. Mohammed Farouk, executive director of the Lagos-based nongovernmental group AIDS Alliance in Nigeria, said, "The antiretroviral project isn't working the way they want it to work. People are not getting access to drugs." Also, the country's efforts to combat HIV/AIDS are "hampered" by a "strong" Christian and Muslim population, the Times reports. For example, the Nigerian Red Cross Society said that some churches asked the organization to change its "ABC" AIDS prevention campaign from "abstinence, be faithful, use condoms" to exclude any mention of contraception. Dr. Kunle Aderanti, principal health officer for the Nigerian Red Cross, said, "The problem that we have in Nigeria is mainly cultural. It's culturally taboo for children to discuss sex with adults -- it's taboo even to discuss sex openly" (Peel, Financial Times, 8/5).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.