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NIGER: Niger opens first AIDS clinic

NIAMEY, 12 November 2003 (PlusNews) - The government of Niger and the local Red Cross have opened a specialist out-patient clinic and public awareness centre for HIV/AIDS in the capital Niamey.

The centre, which opened in October, will provide AIDS testing facilities and provide specialist medical treatment and psychological support for those who suffer from the incurable disease. It was set up with the help of the French Red Cross.

"Our dream has started to come true. We are convinced that the clinic will provide drugs and psycho-social help to patients," Ali Bandiare, President of Niger Red Cross told IRIN.

Working with the National Programme for the Fight against HIV/AIDS (PNLS), the centre hopes to track and treat opportunistic infections, deliver anti-retroviral medicines and provide therapeutic assistance.

The doctor in charge said patients would benefit from post HIV test counselling. Depending on a patient's condition, some would be kept at the facility for observation and treatment for the whole day, he said. However all would be sent home in the evening since the clinic did not have in-patient facilities.

Officials said the Ministry of Health hopes to set up more HIV/AIDS treatment centres across this landlocked and largely desert country. However, for the time being, the clinic in Niamey will be used an experiment to assess the need and gauge the public's response, they added.

"People living with HIV/AIDS hope that they will find at this centre humane, courteous, understanding and willing staff to attend to them," Salifou Ibrahim, President of People living with HIV/AIDS told IRIN. "We hope it will give us the hope and a real sense of life," he added.

A survey conducted in 2002, which was supported by the UN Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), concluded that there was an HIV prevalence rate of 0.87 percent in Niger. That indicates that about 80,000 people of the country's 11 million population are carriers of the virus.

The survey noted a strong prevalance of HIV infection among truck drivers, commercial sex workers, inmates and migrant workers returning from countries with higher prevalence rates.

HIV infection rates of up to 50 percent have been noted among prostitutes in the provincial towns of Dinkou, Tahoua Komabangou, Dr Bagnou Abdoulaye, head of the national inter-sector coordination body against HIV/AIDS said.

In Tahoua, a town 350 km northeast of Niamey, where returning migrants are particularly numerous, nearly one in three patients admitted at the local hospital tested HIV positive, according to a survey carried last year and published by the state-owned publication the Sunday Sahel.

Theme(s): (IRIN) Other


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
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This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Republication is subject to terms and conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.