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For Immediate Release
Support for Africa - 18 October 2000

In support of sufferers of AIDS and Malaria in Africa.

Statements on AIDS in Africa.

According to Dr Peter Piot, the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); in 1998 about 590,000 people in Nigeria had AIDS (this figure does not include HIV prevalence).

Of this figure, 95% was through heterosexual transmission, 4% through blood and 10% through. Mother-to-baby transmission. Dr Piot said. "There is an unprecedented window of opportunity in Nigeria.

The new government's creation of a presidential AIDS Committee headed by the President himself is a promising sign for Nigeria, where there has been very little public acknowledgement of HIV or AIDS until now.

Recently, the Head of State declared AIDS one of his top priorities and I must commend Nigeria for this public show of political commitment." Nigeria's epidemic is less acute than that of some other African countries.

A recent survey indicates that 5.4% of the adult population (2.6 million of the Country's 120m people), are infected with HIV compared with prevalence rates five times that high in some areas of southern Africa.
"Although the rates are below average for the continent, a small increase could be catastrophic," said Dr Piot.

A Nigeria with a higher prevalence is something neither Nigeria nor, the rest of Africa can afford.
AIDS is a borderless epidemic and an increase within the country would have repercussions well beyond.

At the same time other countries are looking to Nigeria for direction, and if Nigeria responds strongly to stem the epidemic this will send very positive signals. With one in five Africans is a Nigerian (sic), Nigeria is poised to play a pivotal leadership role in reversing the AIDS epidemic in Africa," said Dr Piot.

AIDS has cut back life expectancy rates and in some African countries is reverting to 1960's level.

Across sub-Saharan Africa, the epidemic continues to impact seriously on all aspects of society. One in every 100 adults is infected with HIV.

More than 40 million people may be infected by the year 2000.
More than 350,000 people acquire a sexually transmitted infection (STI) each day.

Sources: UNAIDS and World Health Organization