February 7, 2006

The Nigerian government has highlighted a number of barriers that are preventing it from rolling out antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to HIV/AIDS patients across the country. Although the authorities promised free ARVs for patients from January 2006, the programme has been beset by a number of logistical difficulties.

One problem is a lack of effective record keeping. This has led to wastage at some treatment centres, as ARVs are allowed to pass their expiration dates. There are also issues with poor storage and over-stocking. As a result, the government is to increase transparency in the system by publicising the whereabouts of ARV supplies.

Also, activists claim that although the drugs are meant to be free, many hospitals in the country are still demanding service charges for treating patients. Although these charges -- which are around US$8 per person -- have been dropped in 24 federal hospitals, they still remain in the country's state hospitals.

Meanwhile, there is a lack of harmonisation between the government's ARV programme and those being run independently by charitable organisations. This has caused some problems with parallel supply, and has weakened the national ARV system.

Some industry observers claim that international aid organisations can sometimes have a damaging affect on the fight against AIDS in developing countries. This is because governments become reliant on aid and fail to implement domestic production programmes.