Nigerian National Action Committee on AIDS Launches Five-Year Strategy To Combat Epidemic
The Nigerian National Action Committee on AIDS on Friday launched a five-year "Behavior Change Communication Strategy" to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country, Nigeria's This Day reports. The initiative provides a "strategic framework for combating HIV and AIDS that is realistic, practical and responsive to local realities," NACA Chair Babatunde Osotimehin said, adding, "It builds on internationally documented and scalable best practices and will serve as a guide for government and all its partners to help Nigerians adopt healthy behavior and sustainable lifestyle changes to slow the HIV and AIDS epidemic" (Haruna, This Day, 5/4). The BCC Strategy is targeted at five "priority audiences," including young people, people who engage in high-risk behavior, people living with HIV/AIDS, health care providers and people between the ages of 24 and 49, Nigeria's Vanguard reports. Taiwo Allimi, chair of the Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria and director general of the Voice of Nigeria, called for the creation of a national media AIDS initiative that would provide a "well coordinated and integrated media response to the problem of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria." Allimi added, "[W]hile it is true that broadcasting is central and critical to the HIV/AIDS crusade, there is need for broadcasters to go beyond raising awareness of the problem and move to encourage people to adopt new beliefs and attitudes that influence their behavior." Allimi said that the BCC Strategy would be "in line" with the United Nations' Global Media AIDS Initiative (Ogundipe, Vanguard, 5/4). The idea of the Global Media AIDS Initiative, an alliance between the United Nations and the media, was generated through a partnership between UNAIDS and the Kaiser Family Foundation, with financial support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/16).
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo on Sunday called on researchers at the Fourth National Conference on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria to develop an HIV/AIDS vaccine, calling it the "only way to save the country from the scourge," according to the Daily Trust/AllAfrica.com. Obasanjo also "reaffirmed" the country's commitment to fighting the disease through research, promoting care and supporting and treating people living with HIV/AIDS, Daily Trust/AllAfrica.com reports. Obasanjo also said that the government has increased the number of people participating in the country's national antiretroviral treatment program from 10,000 to 13,000 and has reduced the import duties on the drugs. He added that the government soon plans to begin negotiations to produce antiretroviral drugs domestically, according to the Daily Trust/AllAfrica.com (Emeka Okpani, Daily Trust/AllAfrica.com, 5/3).
Nigerian Health Minister Eyitayo Lambo on Friday presented to the government results of a biannual survey showing that the country's HIV prevalence rate dropped from 5.8% of athe population in 2001 to 5% of the population in 2003, Reuters reports. Approximately 3.8 million Nigerians were HIV-positive in 2003, according to the survey. The survey also found that in 2003 more than 300,000 new AIDS cases were reported and about 80,000 infants were born HIV-positive. Lambo said that the decrease in HIV prevalence should "not be seen as a decline or even a stabilization of the epidemic" because the change was not statistically significant (Reuters, 5/3). Obasanjo said that the survey demonstrated a "minor drop ... which is not good news," adding, "It is only when [Nigeria's HIV prevalence] comes down to 2% that we will celebrate" (Timothy, Daily Times, 5/4).