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US to Inject US$150m into Nigeria's HIV/AIDS Program

The US government will inject 19.6 billion naira (about US$150 million) into Nigeria's HIV/AIDS program in 2005, Director of US Agency for International Development Dawn Liberi said in Abuja Monday.  

Speaking at the launching of "the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief," a partnership deal between the United States and Nigeria, in the Nigerian capital Abuja, Liberi said the money was part of the US$50-billion HIV/AIDS relief grant to be given to 15 countries in five years.


She said US President George W. Bush announced plans to give the relief last year, but this was delayed by the process of getting legislation off the ground to back it up.


She explained that the 19.6 billion naira was the first installment, adding that the amount to be released for each of the subsequent years would be expanded if targets were met.


According to her, Nigeria must show results for expansion of funds to be made possible in subsequent years.


She said that with the 19.6 billion naira, 350,000 infected persons would receive antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, 1.1 million infections would be avoided, and 1.7 million people, including 400,000 orphans and children, would receive care and support.


At the global level, she said the United States hopes that within the five years, 10 million people would receive care and support, seven million would be prevented from the infection, while two million others would receive ARV drugs.


She said the partnership program would be officially launched by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo on Wednesday, as part of activities to mark the World AIDS Day.


Apart from the National Action Committee on AIDS (NACA), she said, the implementation of the partnership program would involve local governments, members of civil society groups and defense.


The essence, she said, was to ensure that beneficiaries would be representative of various groups, especially members of the armed forces and the police.


Liberi said the program would have a "little component of research," adding that apart from the eight states that would initially benefit, the list would expand to 22 in five years.


Also addressing the launching ceremony, Chairman of the NACA Babatunde Osotimehin named the Federal Capital Territory and eight out of the nation's 36 states that would benefit including Cross River, Kano, Lagos, Edo, Anambra, Oyo, Borno and Plateau.


The government had set up a governing steering committee that had met several times on how to utilize the relief grant, he said.


Osotimehin explained that the United States was not building any new structures for implementation, but was fusing the program into the national strategy and mechanism for monitoring and evaluating its HIV/AIDS program.


"What the US is providing is an addition to what Nigeria is doing. There is no duplication," he said, adding that the implementation of the AIDS relief program would be transparent.


Worried by an increasing HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of 5.8 percent in the country, the Nigerian government has adopted a string of measures to check the spread of the disease.


Osotimehin said the government is pursuing the anti-AIDS campaign using two approaches, with one concerning with prevention of infection and the other raising the hopes of those already living with the disease.


He added that the government would increase the number of counseling, testing and treatment centers for the disease from 50 to 100 before the end of this year.


Some 15, 000 infected persons are currently undergoing treatment under government subsidized antiretroviral drugs.


Over 700 nongovernmental organizations are working with the Nigerian government in addition to international organizations like the World Health Organization and the UN Children's Fund to influence positive behavioral change among Nigerians on HIV/AIDS.


(Xinhua News Agency November 30, 2004)

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