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Tuesday 15 November 2005
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NIGERIA: US pledges $58 million to combat HIV/AIDS this year

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


US channels AIDS money through faith-based NGOs

ABUJA, 7 June (PLUSNEWS) - Nigeria will receive US $58 million of US aid this year for programmes aimed at treating HIV/AIDS and curbing the spread of the pandemic, half of which will be channelled through faith-based organisations, a senior US official has revealed.

Randall Tobias, Global Coordinator of the US Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, made the announcement on Friday during a visit to Nigeria.

He said the funds would be used to build special facilities, train health workers and provide preventive counselling as well as to treat for those infected by HIV virus.

"This year we expect that the United States contribution to the HIV/AIDS efforts in Nigeria will be about $58 million. And there will be certainly more money coming in the years ahead," Tobias said.

"Everything we do will be done in coordination with the national coordinating body and the government authorities," he added.

Tobias said a large chunk of the funds for Nigeria would be channelled through about 110 non-governmental organisations which had already been identified.

About half of these groups were "faith-based organisations who have some very important capabilities of reaching well into the country," he added.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous country with an estimated 126 million people. Of these, more than six million are officially estimated to infected with the HI virus that causes AIDS.

During his brief visit to Nigeria, Tobias found time to visit a 350-bed government-owned hospital at Gwagwalada, a suburb of the capital, Abuja, where the United States has funded the refurbishment of refrigers used to store antiretroviral drugs for people living with AIDS.

Hospital officials showed him a three-day-old HIV-positive baby abandoned by its mother near the hospital.

"It's been the pattern we have been seeing these days," said Dr Dora Okechukwu, head of the hospital’s paediatric section. "HIV/AIDS positive mothers give birth and then they abandon the babies."

The latest annual sentinel survey of HIV prevalence in Nigeria, released in May, showed that the HIV prevalence rate had declined to 5.0 percent from 5.8 percent in 2003.

However, the survey, based on the voluntary testing of pregnant women attending ante-natal clinics throughout the country, forecast that the HIV prevalence rate would increase over the coming five years.

Randall visited Nigeria as part of a tour of three African nations selected to receive special US help in combatting AIDS. The other two are Cote d'Ivoire and South Africa.


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