Restocked ARV Nigeria

No Comments » December 28th, 2006 posted by // Categories: HIV/AIDS-in-Africa Project




Restocked ARV rollout
offers Nigerians some hope
19 December

As Nigeria, faced with one of
the world’s largest HIV-positive populations, expands its subsidised
antiretroviral (ARV) programme, concern is mounting about how funds are being

Two years ago Nigeria launched what, at the time, was a ground-breaking
initiative to provide ARV drugs to 15 000 people living with HIV at less than
10% of the market price.

But a year later the project ran into difficulties when depleted drug stocks
were not replenished and people receiving treatment were given either expired
drugs or none at all.

While the 50 treatment centres across Nigeria have since been restocked and the
scheme appears to be running smoothly again, fears of similar trip-ups remain
strong among people on the treatment programme.

“It is commendable that the government is expanding the treatment programme,”
said Sola Odumosu, an HIV/Aids activist living with the virus. “But I just hope
they have it all figured out, so that we don’t run into scarcities any more.”

Aids has spread steadily in Nigeria. Less than two percent of the population
were infected with the HI virus in 1991, but that has risen to more than five
percent of the country’s 126 million people today.

Babatunde Oshotimehin, chairman of the National Action Committee on Aids (Naca),
said 100 000 people would be enrolled next year in a government scheme providing
the ARV drugs that help to prolong life. That represents a six-fold increase on
the present number of beneficiaries.

The number of government-run Aids counselling, testing and treatment centres
would double from 50 to 100 in 2005, while a NACA awareness campaign targets 20
to 29 year-olds, who have the country’s highest HIV prevalence rate at 5,6%,
Oshotimehin noted.

With more than six million people infected in Nigeria, health experts fear a
three-fold increase in a few years that could cause severe harm to the country’s
economic and social development.

Some signs of hope have emerged from the last two national Aids surveys, which
showed a drop in the HIV prevalence rate from 5,8% in 2002 to 5% in 2002.

The government is hoping to build on that with a two-pronged approach of
offering help to those infected with the virus, while curbing the rate at which
the virus is spreading, Oshotimehim said.

The drive to expand Aids control activities is being funded largely by a
$150-million grant from the United States and a $110-million soft loan from the
World Bank.

A World Bank official in Washington said that $16-million of the loan had been
drawn down so far. The Bank’s programme in Nigeria had recently been entirely
restructured to allow the purchase of ARVs in all of Nigeria’s 36 states, he

The official pointed out that the World Bank loan, denominated in Special
Drawing Rights (SDRs) was originally worth just $90-million, but the dollar’s
sharp fall against the world’s other main currencies had pushed up its value in
dollar terms by $20-million.

The Nigerian government is also expecting $150-million from the US government’s
Emergency Plan for Aids Relief.

“We hope to educate more people, treat more people and generally work to reduce
the rate of infection,” Oshotimehin told reporters.

More than 700 non-governmental organisations, including faith-based groups,
professional associations and networks of people living with HIV, have been
enlisted to work with the government to bring a message of care and prevention
to the country.

UN agencies, such as the World Health Organisation and the UN Children’s Fund,
are also helping to influence positive behaviour changes among Nigerians
regarding HIV/Aids.

An HIV/Aids curriculum for primary and junior secondary schools that is being
taught in some schools will be implemented more widely.

Naca is counting on judicious use of the funds from the World Bank and the
United States to sustain its campaign to roll back the Aids pandemic.

But while Oshotimehin expects the foreign aid money to be used wisely, some Aids
activists are less hopeful.

Nsikak Ekpe, president of Aids Alliance Nigeria, an activist group for people
living with Aids, has expressed fears that many of Nigeria’s states were
spending their own share of the funds on luxury items, such as flashy cars and
big offices, rather than care, support and training aimed at developing a local
capacity to deal with the disease.

“The antiretroviral programme in Nigeria is the most ambitious you can get
anywhere,” said Ekpe. “The only problem is that we have found out that most
state governments are playing with the funds and not using them well.”

In several states, Ekpe said, the donor money had been used to procure expensive
four-wheel drive cars and furnish offices. “This money is for the HIV/Aids
programme, and I don’t think that simply means buying jeeps and other expensive

But the World Bank again was reassuring. Nigerian states receiving loans first
have to lay out plans, which are approved by the state and national Aids
committees as well as World Bank experts, the official in Washington said.

“Buying cars and furniture is what people always do first,” he said. “But we
have seen several of the states start doing some very encouraging work after
furnishing the office.”– Irin


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