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International News
Nigeria Pledges to Begin Providing Antiretrovirals at No Cost in 2006

January 3, 2006

Nigeria in 2006 will begin a program that aims to provide antiretroviral drugs at no cost to about 250,000 HIV-positive residents, the country's National Action Committee on HIV/AIDS announced last month, Reuters reports. Only about 40,000 of the 3.5 million HIV-positive people in the country currently receive subsidized antiretroviral treatment (Shirbon, Reuters, 12/24/05). The program will be funded by a $250 million grant from the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as well as money made available when the country's international debts were canceled. The U.S. government will provide most of the remaining money needed to implement the program (BBC News, 12/23/05). Although international aid organization Medecins Sans Frontieres praised Nigeria's move to provide antiretrovirals at no cost, the group said it was not a large enough commitment. According to Francois Giddey, head of an MSF clinic in Lagos, Nigeria, people living with HIV/AIDS have to pay for additional medical costs, including medicines to treat and prevent opportunistic infections and medical tests, which can cost between $23 and $54 monthly. NACA Chair Babatunde Osotimehin said the government is working on a plan to subsidize the costs of tests and treatment for adults, adding that all care for HIV-positive pregnant women and children would be free of charge (Reuters, 12/24/05). However, some AIDS advocates in the country have questioned whether the government can meet its treatment target and maintain the program for an extended period of time, according to AFP/Mail & Guardian (AFP/Mail & Guardian, 12/24/05).

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