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Nigeria Masterweb Editorial

    Nigeria: An Aids Time Bomb

    (Saturday, June 1, 2002)

    By Chief Charles O. Okereke, Nigeria Masterweb

    Aids Patient A recent United Nations report classified Nigeria among the worst HIV hit nations, with nearly five million projected infections. Nigeria an AIDS time bomb? Yes, one can easily conclude this, since the country constitutes a whooping 18% of Africa's population, a continent already besieged with AIDS. Abuja, Lagos, and Enugu are among the hardest hit cities according to reliable sources. The HIV virus is spreading at an alarming rate in these cities among others. Nigeria's HIV epidemic, unabated will have major social and economic mayhem for the country and Africa in general. Infection rates are very high amongst the youngest women, who have resorted to prostitution as a means of employment. This is not surprising to one familiar with Nigeria, where unemployment is unqualifiable. Graduates are turned out, without corresponding industries to absorb them. The country's infrastructure is generally poor, depilated to the extent that only desperate foreign investors would have interest investing in the country. This is not to say that the Obasanjo administration has not done anything to reverse the many years of army misrule of the country. There are lot more tables to overturn to bring the country to a healthy path. These include fighting corruption, and the develoment of the country's infrastructure.

    President Obasanjo made the war against AIDS a national priority when he took office in 1999. The National Action Committee on AIDS which was to report directly to the presidency was created. The HIV virus is continously gaining grounds in the war and the country losing lives. This has put the country to its present status of an AIDS time bomb. It is unclear the role of corruption in the turn out of the AIDS war. Are condoms that are supposed to be distributed free, sold by corrupt officials? Are funds for the war against AIDS misappropriated or embezzled? Your answers to these questions are as good as mine. On the local level state governments have initiated one program or the other in a bid to stall the spread of the virus. Enugu State emphasizes prevention through mass campaigns in schools and has set up primary health care centers for screening for the virus. Results are yet to be recorded from any of these programs on the local level.

    The AIDS epidemic is a national crisis, a time bomb as we have seen. A lot more needs to be done on the federal level in terms of preventive measures or campaign. Checks and balances are to be put in place to ensure full or complete implementation of programs initiated. Erring or corrupt officials are to be stringently disciplined to the maximum extent of applicable laws. It is understood the federal government just recently commissioned twenty five hospitals where AIDS treatment would be subsidized by government. Treatment of AIDS with anti-retroviral drugs is neither preventive nor curative measure. It is a life supporting measure, all things being equal would lengthen the life of the patient. While congratulating the federal government for its subsidy, she is on the other hand reminded to do more on prevention, because with prevention there would be no cure.

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