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Nigeria to host African summit on HIV-AIDS: official


AFRICAN heads of state will meet in Nigeria in May to review their gains and strategies in the fight against the disease HIV-AIDS, the head of Nigeria's anti-AIDS agency said last Monday.
The summit is a follow-up on the International Conference on AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases held last month in the Nigerian capital Abuja, Babatunde Osotimehin, chairman of the National Action Committee on Aids (NACA), told the state-run News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Nigeria, the continent's most populous nation with 130 million people, which currently has 85 treatment centres for people living with HIV, the virus that can cause AIDS, and hopes to attain 185 by the end of this year, in a bid to give more people access to treatment, especially in rural areas, he told NAN.
Nigeria has a prevalent HIV infection rate of five per cent or 3.5 million people living with HIV, according to the 2003 sentinel survey, he added.
President Olusegun Obasanjo has directed that 10 per cent of Nigeria's 18 billion dollars in debt relief granted last year by the Paris Club of creditor nations be used in the fight against HIV and AIDS, said Osotimehin.
Nigeria this month will begin to dispense free anti- retroviral (ARV) drugs to HIV/AIDS patients, the government had previously announced.
Nigeria has the world's third-highest population of people with HIV/AIDS after India and South Africa.
Free distribution of drugs that help control the symptoms was a "Christmas present" to those living with the virus, the health ministry said in a statement.
The government will also waive a monthly contribution of 1,000 nairas (six euros, seven dollars) which patients selected for the anti-retroviral programme were expected to pay.
Many patients could not afford the contribution, leading to gaps in their treatment.
The measure benefiting about 100,000 patients is expected to cost the government 11 million dollars.