Nigerian President Launches New HIV/AIDS Policy Aimed at Reducing Stigma
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday announced a new national HIV/AIDS policy to address the stigma associated with the disease and "promote a sense of collective responsibility" for fighting the AIDS epidemic, U.N. IRIN/AllAfrica.com reports. He said that the new policy addresses the "vulnerability" of women and children to the disease and aims to create a new law to protect the civil rights of people living with HIV/AIDS. The policy also calls for increased "support and care" for people living with the disease, according to U.N. IRIN/AllAfrica.com. Obasanjo said that Nigeria will "intensify" its education projects to help reduce HIV/AIDS stigma. "Stigmatization is largely a communication issue, which is based on insufficient information flow and in turn breeds rumor mongering," Obasanjo said, adding, "Our policy identifies the importance of upholding and protecting the rights of all Nigerians, including people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS." Babatunde Osotimehin, chair of the country's National Action Committee on AIDS, said that the new policy will address HIV/AIDS as a "development problem rather than just a health issue, as was the case with the previous policy," according to U.N IRIN/AllAfrica.com. He added, "It also seeks to provide a platform for us to do a lot of prevention and provide ... care and support for those infected and affected" (U.N. IRIN/AllAfrica.com, 8/5).
Increased Treatment Access
Taiwo Adewole, head of the AIDS unit at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research in Lagos, said that efforts launched last year to control HIV/AIDS were limited by "several obstacles," including an inability to monitor the AIDS control program, a lack of coordination among antiretroviral drug units and no follow-up care for HIV/AIDS patients, Reuters reports. The program involves the distribution of generic antiretroviral drugs from India to 10,000 Nigerian HIV/AIDS patients through 25 drug units across the country. The drugs are obtained for about $90 per person and provided to patients for $10; however, patients also have to cover additional costs of approximately $50 for tests performed three to four times annually, Reuters reports. Adewole said, "Our records show that many of those within the 15 to 30 (age bracket), which forms the highest prevalence rate of infected people, don't come to the centers for treatment." He added, "The government has to create a platform for more people to get access to the antiretrovirals because the number of 200 sufferers budgeted for by each center is too small" (Ibagere, Reuters, 8/7).