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Nearly 4 Million Nigerians Have HIV -- Ministry

May 3, 2004

On Friday, Nigeria's health minister announced that his West African country has an estimated 3.8 million people infected with HIV. "I am very unhappy to report that as of today, Nigeria is still one of the countries worst affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the world, next to South Africa and India, in terms of the number of people living with HIV/AIDS," said Eyitayo Lambo, as he presented results of a biannual survey to government. The survey indicated 2.3 million Nigerians have already died from AIDS.

Though HIV/AIDS prevalence in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, dropped to 5.0 percent in 2003 from 5.8 percent in 2001, Lambo reported, the lower rate should not be interpreted as a sign the virus is retreating. "It should not be seen as a decline or even a stabilization of the epidemic," said Lambo, adding that the change was not statistically significant.

In 2003 alone, Lambo said there were more than 300,000 AIDS cases and about 80,000 newborn infants infected with HIV. "The high medical, emotional and social costs on people living with HIV/AIDS cannot be adequately quantified," Lambo noted.

According to Lambo, HIV rates have risen steadily since 1991 when testing began and stood at 1.8 percent. Nigeria is characterized as having several HIV/AIDS epidemics all spreading at different rates, he added. The north-central area of the country has the highest rate at 7.0 percent, while southwestern Nigeria is the lowest at 2.3 percent. The survey showed that young adults ages 20-24 have the highest prevalence rate of any group, which Lambo said would hinder Nigeria's economic growth.

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