‘Nigeria may overtake S’Africa on HIV’

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WHO alerts on fresh bird-flu outbreak

CONTRARY to widely held views, more men die daily from HIV/AIDS than women. This assertion, which was made public by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), came as the Global Fund warned that Nigeria could overtake South Africa as the most HIV burdened country.

And despite promising advances in recent years, such as declining AIDS and TB mortality and a sharp increase in the use of insecticide-treated nets, Nigeria faces serious health challenges, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) has appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to further expand domestic investment in health.

Meanwhile, a new bird-flu strain that has killed 22 people in China is “one of the most lethal” of its kind and transmits more easily to humans than another strain that has killed hundreds since 2003, a World Health Organisation (WHO) expert said on Wednesday.

Nigeria, according to the Fund, has the second-largest number of people living with HIV in the world after South Africa. But, according to the world body, only 30 per cent of those needing treatment are on anti-retroviral therapy and only 16 per cent of pregnant HIV-positive women are getting prophylactic treatment to prevent them from passing on the virus to their babies.

The Fund said in Abuja on Wednesday that Nigeria stands the risk of overtaking South Africa unless more urgent actions are taken.

The country also has the second-highest child and maternal mortalities in the world, in absolute numbers, and accounts for nearly one-third of deaths from malaria globally. While TB mortality has fallen significantly since 2003, case detection rates are still among the lowest in the world.

Director General of NACA, Prof. John Idoko, who spoke at a briefing in Abuja alongside a visiting team from the Global Fund, stressed that men die more from HIV-related diseases than women in Nigeria.

He spoke of how some surveys conducted around Nigerian hospitals revealed that more women go out for HIV services like testing, prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) and treatment than men who continue to live in denial.

The H7N9 flu has infected 108 people in China since it was first detected in March, according to the Geneva-based WHO.

Although it is not clear exactly how people are being infected, experts say they see no evidence so far of the most worrisome scenario – sustained transmission between people.

An international team of scientists led by the WHO and the Chinese government conducted a five-day investigation in China, but said they were no closer to determining whether the virus might become transmissible between people.

“The situation remains complex and difficult and evolving,” said Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s assistant director-general for health security.

“When we look at influenza viruses, this is an unusually dangerous virus for humans,” he said at a briefing.





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