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Nigerian State Hospitals Continue to Charge Fees Despite Pledge to Provide ARVs at No Cost, Advocates Say

January 18, 2006

HIV/AIDS advocates say that some state hospitals continue to charge fees for treating patients, despite a December 2005 plan by the Nigerian government to begin a program providing antiretroviral drugs at no cost this year, BBC News reports (Plaut, BBC News, 1/16). Nigeria's National Action Committee on AIDS earlier this month announced its plan to double the number of government health care facilities offering antiretroviral drugs at no cost to HIV-positive people as part of a campaign aimed at providing no-cost antiretrovirals to about 250,000 HIV-positive residents by the end of this year. The program began with 33 government health centers, and the government plans to open an additional 33 centers within the first quarter of this year. Only about 40,000 of the 3.5 million HIV-positive people in the country currently receive subsidized antiretroviral treatment. The program is being funded by a $250 million grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as well as with 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/10). Although the drugs are provided to the hospitals at no cost, many state-run facilities still require payment for treatment services. These charges have now been eliminated in 24 federal hospitals, but state hospitals continue to charge fees, HIV/AIDS advocates say. According to the Nigerian government, 41 hospitals and clinics provide the drugs at no cost. Babatunde Osotimehin, chair of Nigeria's National AIDS Control Programme, said that the government next week will meet with the states to discuss the "roll out" of the new program, which he said is expected to be completed within three months (BBC News, 1/16).

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