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JOHANNESBURG, 31 July 2001 (PlusNews) - CONTENTS: NIGERIA: Nigeria to launch largest AIDS programme in Africa UNITED NATIONS: Ugandan picked to spearhead AIDS fund KENYA: Health workers call for AIDS monitoring NIGERIA: Nigeria to launch largest AIDS programme in Africa Nigeria plans to launch the largest AIDS treatment programme in Africa using cheap generic drugs on 1 September, AP reported on Tuesday. Stephen Lewis, the special envoy of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for HIV/AIDS in Africa told a press conference on Monday that the Nigerian government’s commitment demonstrates that efforts are under way within Africa to tackle the epidemic that has infected about 26.5 million people across the continent. He told journalists that “it’s a quite extraordinary intervention, a measure of the president’s determination that they maintain the level of the pandemic where it is and try to turn it back, They recognise that if Nigeria fails, then much of Africa will fail.” Botswana, which has the world’s highest rate of AIDS infections, will launch a treatment programme using anti-retroviral drugs in early 2002. In February, the Indian pharmaceutical company Cipla, offered to sell a three-drug AIDS cocktail to non-profit agencies for US $350 a year per African patient provided the patients weren’t charged. The company said at the time that African governments could purchase the same drugs for US $600 per patient. But the Nigerian health minister was able to negotiate a US $350 a year per patient deal with Cipla. The Nigerian government will subsidize about 80 percent of the cost, but patients who receive treatment will have to pay about US $7 - US $8 a month (1,000 naira), said Lewis. Nigeria intends to use a six-drug regimen for 60 percent of the patients and a two-drug regimen for the other 40 percent, he said. The drugs are expected to have similar results, but the government will monitor and evaluate how patients cope with the different programmes, which will be administered by Nigeria’s teaching hospitals. UNITED NATIONS: Ugandan picked to spearhead AIDS fund UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan named former Ugandan Health Minister Crispus Kiyonga as head of the transition team for the UN-brokered Global AIDS and Health Fund on Monday. Kiyonga, who until last week oversaw what many observers consider to be “one of Africa’s most effective AIDS-prevention campaigns,” will head a group charged with determining how the fund will operate. The position of Chair of the Transitional Working Group will be crucial in bringing together the widest range of stakeholders in support of the fund. “Dr Kiyonga is well known regionally and internationally as a champion of efforts against HIV/AIDS as well as malaria and tuberculosis,” Marie Okabe Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General said at a press briefing in New York on Monday. The Global AIDS and Health Fund is to be set up by December. Interim arrangements for the fund were agreed at a meeting in Brussels earlier this month, attended by representatives of Annan, developed and developing nations, non-governmental organisations and the private sector. KENYA: Health workers call for AIDS monitoring HIV/AIDS activists warn that Kenya does not have adequate facilities to administer the drug, Nevirapine which is used to curb mother-to-child-transmission of the HIV virus, ‘Africa Analysis’ reported on Monday. The Kenyan government has applied for free supplies of Nevirapine. Many women cannot afford the expensive tests and monitoring that must accompany Nevirapine treatment. Most HIV positive Kenyans do not even realise they are infected, campaigners say, and the expense of testing is beyond the reach of millions in a country where the majority of the population live on less than US $1 a day. HIV/AIDS activists are calling for private sector support to make HIV-testing more affordable. Free supplies of Nevirapine, which protects up to 50 percent of children born to HIV-positive mothers from contracting the virus, have been on offer for 12 months. Yet a 60 tablet bottle sells for US $47 dollars in Nairobi. An estimated 255,000 HIV-infected Kenyan women give birth annually. The calls for more resources in Kenya is significant because debate about HIV/AIDS across Africa has focused not only on the availability of drugs, but also on the question of how much infrastructure is needed for safe health care delivery. While there is no question of the utility of treatments for all patients with HIV or full blown AIDS, health managers and politicians have argued about the amount of testing and monitoring required for adequate levels of care.

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