AIDS Drugs Trials Win Mixed Reception as Nigeria Fears Epidemic
May 28, 2002
Nigeria is conducting large-scale trials of generic drugs in a bid to stop its massive population from being the next to fall victim to HIV/AIDS. Compared to the worst hit countries of eastern and southern Africa, Nigeria has a lower level of HIV/AIDS: Some 5.8 percent of the sexually active population is infected, according to the latest health ministry figures. But in a country of more than 120 million, that represents 3.47 million sick people, and health experts fear that once the epidemic becomes generalized beyond high risk groups the crisis could explode to become Africa's largest.
The key to avoiding this disastrous scenario could be the use of generic drugs -- antiretrovirals to control the effect of the virus -- imported from India and much cheaper than their brand-name Western equivalents. The drugs will be licensed for general use in July, but doctors say the Nigerian testing program has been patchy and questions remain about the health service's ability to reach all those in need.
Mohammed Farouk, national coordinator for the activist group Nigerian AIDS Alliance, said his group "is not satisfied with the application of the trial, especially the monitoring and evaluation, counseling and the competence of the trial doctors." "Some of the doctors are not trained in giving these drugs and they do not carry out the necessary counseling," he said.
Other members of the alliance allege that they are being charged for the drugs, in violation of trial regulations. In the city of Kano, doctors complained that not enough drugs have been supplied to meet demands. "We only started trials a month ago," said Sadiq Wali, Amino Kano Teaching Hospital's chief medical director. Kano State Health Commissioner Mansur Kabir said, "The trial program is yet to start at the state level and it is therefore a bit early to make any comment."
Agence France Presse
05.21.02; Ade Obisesan
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.