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IRIN PlusNews HIV/AIDS News and information service | West Africa | NIGERIA: Obasanjo opens blood transfusion centre to fight HIV/AIDS | | News Items
Tuesday 27 December 2005
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NIGERIA: Obasanjo opens blood transfusion centre to fight HIV/AIDS

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

©  AP

President Olusegun Obasanjo

ABUJA, 12 May (PLUSNEWS) - Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo donated blood on Thursday at a new transfusion centre in the capital, Abuja, the start of a drive to clean up the country's chaotic blood-bank system and help stem the spread of HIV through contaminated blood.

The government puts the official HIV/AIDS prevalence rate at 5 percent in this country of more than 126 million people.

But Jeff Busch, the director of US charity Safe Blood for Africa that helped the Nigerian government fund the new centre, said that about 10 percent of one million samples of blood tested in Africa's most populous nation were contaminated with the HI-virus.

The new transfusion centre is one of seven planned for Nigeria. It will issue certificates, guaranteeing the safety of the donated blood it supplies to hospitals.

Previously, each hospital was responsible for its own blood bank, making the standardisation of blood screening difficult.

"In this era of emergencies, unanticipated illnesses and the challenge of the HIV/AIDS scourge, it is important to have safe and wholesome blood to save lives," said Obasanjo.

People are often paid to donate blood in Nigeria and the blood testing system often operates without any regulatory controls.

Untested blood samples are sometimes sold with labels saying they have been checked for syphilis, hepatitis and AIDS - diseases that can be contracted through blood transfusion, Busch said.

Obasanjo used the opening ceremony to warn against the practice, saying Nigerians must stop "relying on touts, blood sellers and other questionable sources".

According to Busch six additional blood transfusion centres will be built across the country in the next five years at the cost of US $20 million.

"When the program is fully implemented we'll stop hundreds of thousands of people a year from getting infectious diseases," he said.

Minister of Health Eyitayo Lambo acknowledged that the government's previous attempts to address the problem had failed.

"My ministry had previously embarked on many ad hoc measures to improve blood transfusion services in the country, but none of these has had any impact," said Lambo. "Blood continued to be scarce, and many avoidable deaths occurred."


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