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Nigeria Masterweb News Report

    Nigerian HIV Epidemic

    (Sunday, January 13, 2002)

    By Chief Charles O. Okereke, Nigeria Masterweb

    Aids Patient In Nigeria, a public health catastrophe is beginning to unfold. In the late sixties it was epidemic death from a civil war, but now death from a national AIDS crisis. A decade after HIV the virus that causes AIDS was at war with southern and eastern Africa, the front lines have been extended to Nigeria. Doom would be spelt for the country and Africa in general, with anything less than a decisive victory over AIDS in Nigeria. This is because Nigeria constitutes roughly 18% the population of Africa. Presently over 6% of the population is infected. Government study in 1999 shows nearly 3.5 million Nigerians infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. According to the Ministry of Health the rate of infection has increased by nearly six percent among people between the ages of 15 to 49 years. The Ministry puts the HIV rate for the capital city of Abuja at 10 percent the city's population. This, officials describe as a "fast track" rate. Today in some hospitals, according to the government, 60 to 70% of the cases are AIDS-related.

    When President Olusegun Obasanjo took over the mantle of leadership in 1999, he made the war against AIDS a national priority. Towards winning the war, he created the National Action Committee on AIDS which was to report directly to the presidency. Nigeria has allocated 4 million dollars and borrowed $90 million dollars from the World Bank to fight AIDS over the next three years. Condoms are being made available to the public, other than this not much has happened so far on the ground. Billboards alerting people to the dangers of AIDS are yet to be erected. Dr. Esther Obinya is sceptical but keeps hope. Here is her sceptism and hope according to a statement by her, I qoute, "I think it's already late. We've passed the Rubicon. But if we start something aggressive and continuous now, we can at least reduce the calamity that will befall us through HIV and AIDS. But, as it is now, it is a tragedy that is already happening. We are going to be decimated." United Nations Children's Fund(UNICEF) projects that by 2010, Nigeria would have 2.5 million orphans as a result of AIDS.

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