Nigeria must set example for rest of Africa in tackling HIV, says UNAIDS chief

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23 February - The head of the United Nations agency leading the global effort against HIV and AIDS has commended the Nigerian Government for its progressive policies, while calling for greater efforts to tackle the epidemic and set an example for the rest of Africa.

“Nigeria must take the lead in setting the regional and African Union agenda in eliminating mother to child transmission of HIV by 2015. Without Nigeria's leadership, this goal will not be met in the African continent,” Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said during a visit to the country.

According to UNAIDS, there are nearly three million people living with HIV in Nigeria – second only to South Africa on the continent – with about 1,000 new infections every day.

The agency noted that there is a growing demand for access to treatment and prevention services within Nigeria, which can only be met by strengthening the current partnership between global, national and local partners.

“We cannot afford to let down the four million people living on treatment and the millions who are waiting for it,” said Mr. Sidibé.

Nigeria has only 30 per cent of the resources available to meet the needs of the national AIDS response, with the global economic downturn impacting negatively on the amount of resources available at the national and state level.

Mr. Sidibé, who was on a joint visit with Ambassador Eric Goosby, the United States Global Coordinator on AIDS, met with a number of officials, including Health Minister Professor Babatunde Osotimehin. He also visited Kaduna state, where adult HIV prevalence is around 7 per cent.