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Last Updated: Monday, 16 January 2006, 23:09 GMT
Nigeria Aids-drug plan 'thwarted'
By Martin Plaut
BBC Africa editor

Nigerian children wearing T-shirts with the Aids symbol
More than four million Nigerians are now HIV positive
A pledge by the Nigerian government to provide all anti-Aids drugs for free has not been met as some hospitals impose service charges, activists say.

The government vowed in December to provide anti-retroviral drugs, needed to combat HIV-Aids, free of charge.

The drugs have always been free, but many hospitals run by individual states still demand service charges for treating patients.

More than four million Nigerians are HIV positive.


The government's announcement should have made a really significant impact on the lives of a large number of people.

However it appears that far fewer people are getting the free anti-retrovirals than was first thought.

Before December's announcement the service charge was around $8 in federal hospitals and even more in hospitals run by the individual states.

Aids activists have now told the BBC that the charges have been dropped in 24 federal hospitals but not in the far more numerous hospitals in the states.

This figure is disputed by the government - which maintains that 41 hospitals and clinics are now providing the drugs free of charge.

But Babatunde Osotimehin, the head of Nigeria's National Aids Control Programme, accepts that charges are still being made by the state hospitals.

He says the government will be meeting the states next week to discuss how to roll out the free drug programme and says this will be accomplished within the next three months.

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