Obasanjo launches new HIV/AIDS policy
Friday 5 December 2003


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NIGERIA: Obasanjo launches new HIV/AIDS policy


LAGOS, 5 August (IRIN) - President Olusegun Obasanjo has launched a new HIV/AIDS policy to combat the stigma attached to the disease and promote a sense of collective responsibility for fighting it.

Babatunde Osotimehin, chairman of the National Action Committee on AIDS (NACA), said on Tuesday the new policy views HIV/AIDS as a development problem rather than just a health issue, as was the case with the previous policy, articulated in 1997.

"It also seeks to provide a platform for us to do a lot of prevention and provide succour, care and support for those infected and affected,” he told reporters.

Obasanjo, who unveiled the new policy in the capital Abuja on Monday, said all elected officials and civil servants had a duty to be active in the fight against HIV/AIDS, so that their example would permeate the entire population of more than 120 million people.

The president said appropriate measures would be designed to address the vulnerability of women and children to the scourge which has infected more than three million Nigerians, including 800,000 children.

He said the new policy would lead to the drafting of a new law to protect the civil rights of those affected by HIV/AIDS.

It would also encourage the provision of support and care for people affected by HIV/AIDS.

"Our policy identifies the importance of upholding and protecting the rights of all Nigerians, including people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS,” said Obasanjo.

The President said his government would intensify efforts to educate people about the reality of the disease in order to remove the stigma attached to it, since this silenced sufferers and made the fight to control HIV/AIDS more difficult.

“Stigmatisation is largely a communication issue, which is based on insufficient information flow and in turn breeds rumour mongering,” Obasanjo said.

NACA officials said the government found it necessary to change the thrust of its HIV/AIDS policy because its first approach was found to have merely raised awareness about the disease without making people understand it.

“The result was that people became afraid and ran away from those infected with the virus without necessarily changing their behaviour,” one official told IRIN.

Such attitudes were blamed for the general failure of a government programme to treat 10,000 adult sufferers of AIDS with anti-retroviral drugs at 100 hospitals across Nigeria. The programme attracted a very low response rate with less than 2,000 people registering in designated hospitals.



Recent NIGERIA Reports

Prevalence rates rise despite anti-AIDS messages,  23/Oct/03
Struggling to promote awareness,  29/Nov/02
Country brief,  23/Sep/02
US, Britain to provide $140 million in aid,  9/Sep/02
Investigations disprove HIV/AIDS cure claims,  13/Jun/02


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