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By NBF News
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As she commissioned the National Call Centre on HIV/AIDS and Related Diseases of the National Agency for Control of AIDS (NACA), First Lady, Patience Jonathan said the growth of telephony in Nigeria provides a strong platform for increasing information dissemination on health challenges such as HIV/AIDS. She commended Airtel Networks Limited for its lead role in providing toll free lines for subscribers to call the Centre and access information on HIV/AIDS.

Dame Jonathan, accompanied by the wife of the Vice President, Hajiya Amina Sambo and the First Ladies of Rivers and Bayelsa States, among others, observed that the growth of subscriber base of telecoms firms in Nigeria provides a strong platform for using telephony to drive health awareness. She stated: 'I believe that the establishment of this National Call Centre will go a long way in strengthening our national response to HIV/AIDS, as is the case in other countries of the world, such as South Africa, the Philipines and India, who have used help lines and Call Centres successfully in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. '

Airtel Nigeria is supporting the National Call Centre with toll free lines. The Centre is commencing with 30 agents ready to provide information, guidance and counselling to callers. All calls on a dedicated Airtel line 6222 are free.

Subscribers on the Airtel network will henceforth receive regular information on HIV/AIDS and other healthcare issues courtesy of a partnership between Airtel Nigeria and the National Agency for Control of AIDS Nigeria.

Airtel subscribers can also call the toll free line 6222 at the NACA HIV/AIDS Call Centre to get information, advice and guidance on matters relating to HIV/AIDS.

Airtel Chief Executive Officer Mr. Rajan Swaroop made the commitment at the formal commissioning of the NACA National Call Contact Centre in Abuja. Airtel is providing the backbone for the NACA National Contact Call Centre. Mr. Femi Oyewole, Regional Director, North of Airtel, represented Swaroop.

Recalling that the Airtel partnership with NACA began in 2005, the Airtel Chief Executive affirmed, 'As far as this partnership is concerned, we are totally committed to ensuring the success of the National Call Contact Centre. It is our role to ensure effective public enlightenment and education through firm commitment in scaling up existing efforts and concrete partnerships that will help millions of Nigerians access better information and referrals to service provision in healthcare delivery.

Swaroop lamented the sentinel survey 2011 results that show higher prevalence of HIV in some rural areas compared with urban areas. He called for more effort by telecoms firms to enhance the fight against the scourge by enabling provision of information to citizens particularly in rural areas. Mr. Swaroop stated.

The First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, commended Airtel for collaborating with NACA to deliver the HIV/AIDS Call Centre saying that the Call Centre represents an important milestone in the national response to the HIV/AIDS challenge in Nigeria. 'I acknowledge with pleasure the collaboration between NACA and key telecommunication players in this highly strategic project. It is a clear expression of corporate social responsibility in the true spirit of Public Private Partnership.'

Also present at the commissioning were the Minister of Health, Prof Onyebuchi Chukwu, Mrs. Judith Amaechi, First Lady of Rivers State, Mrs. Rachel Dickson, First Lady of Bayelsa State, and Mrs. Appoloania Petinrin, wife of the Chief of Defence Staff. There was also the chief host Prof John Idoko, Director General of the National Agency for Control of AIDS and Chief Mrs Nkechi Mba, national president of the National Council for Women's Societies.