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The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders (news - web sites) said it was intensifying its fight against HIV (news - web sites)-AIDS (news - web sites) in Nigeria...
LAGOS (AFP) - The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders (news - web sites) said it was intensifying its fight against HIV (news - web sites)-AIDS (news - web sites) in Nigeria, where some four million people have already been caught up in a spiralling epidemic.
Since November 2003, MSF has working with a government hospital in central Lagos where it has about HIV/AIDS 250 patients enrolled under its project, the organisation's spokeswoman, Tracy Crawford, told a group of journalists.
"We are building capacity to fight the disease and encouraging people to get off the streets and come forward voluntarily for treatment," she said.
The programme hopes to establish a model of comprehensive care and support for people living with HIV-AIDS and to reduce HIV-AIDS morbidity and mortality.
Between 200,000 and 490,000 adults and children died of AIDS in Nigeria in 2003, according to a document jointly prepared by UNAIDS (news - web sites), UNICEF (news - web sites) and WHO.
MSF will only leave Nigeria "when we are sure that the Nigerian programme, being funded by the German office of MSF, will continue. For now, we have so far had positive and fruitful relationship with the hospital," she added.
She said that the international humanitarian agency has a team of 10 workers in the hospital, five of them expatriates.
At least two of MSF's Nigerian workers are HIV positive.
Ibrahim Umoru, 41, a father of two children and a peer health education officer, said that he has been living with the HIV virus (news - web sites) for five years and that he is no longer concerned about the social stigma of having the disease.
His colleague, Mary Ashie, who advises patients on how to maintain their drugs regime, said that she had become aware of her HIV positive status in 2000, after her six-month-old son infected with the disease died.
She made fruitless and expensive visits to Christian pastors, herbalists and local doctors before her health began to deteriorate until she was placed on anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs, said the shy-looking woman.
"My job under the MSF programme is to let patients know the importance of taking their drugs at the right time, educate them on drugs and the side effects of ARV," she said.
The MSF voluntary counselling and testing centre in the hospital, currently wearing a new coat of paint, is scheduled to be formally commissioned on Tuesday by Lagos State Health Commissioner Leke Pital, according to officials.
The centre provides medical care, nutritional support, laboratory services, counselling, antiretroviral adherence counselling and referrals for other services.
MSF's consultation and treatment at the centre is free. The patient only pays 150 naira (about one dollar/euro) to be tested.
Umoru said he had had to pay 21,000 naira (158 dollars) per month where he was undergoing treatment before he joined MSF last year.
"This money I was paying was far above my monthly salary," he said.
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