2005-11-09-Texts used for Nigeria HIV drive

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2005-11-09-Texts used for Nigeria HIV drive

 

Nine million young people in Nigeria are to be sent text messages on Wednesday to raise awareness about HIV/Aids.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is launching its Nigerian campaign because it has the third highest number of people with the disease.

Unicef is aiming to take advantage of the surge in mobile phone use in Nigeria over the last six years.

The campaign also sees footballer Nwankwo Kanu fronting a TV campaign.

The West Bromwich Albion player, who is from Nigeria, will pass on safe-sex advice in the clips.

More than 39 million people are living with HIV across the world.

Nigeria ranks third in the world after India and South Africa.

Every day, 1,000 Nigerians contract HIV and another 800 die of Aids and related diseases, many of them children, Unicef said.

UN agencies called for anti-retroviral drugs to be given to more pregnant women to avoid a "catastrophic" rise in infections.

There are around 140m people in Nigeria, and the fertility rate is 5.7 children per woman.

'Enormous potential for devastation'

The current shortage of anti-retroviral drugs has meant an increasing number of children are becoming infected by their mothers at birth, experts said.

Tegegnework Gettu, UN resident coordinator in Nigeria, said: "The problem is very deep in Nigeria, it has a huge implication for the whole continent."

Ayalew Abai, head of Unicef in Nigeria, said: "With the current population growth rate, the potential devastation to this country without effective action will be enormous.

"There are already 1.8 million children orphaned by AIDS in Nigeria."

Mr Getty said there was significant funding available for HIV/Aids projects in Nigeria, but aid often got tied up in bureaucracy or used ineffectively.

He said: "We really need to get our act together.

"We should admit that we have not done a good job of tackling HIV/Aids in this country and in this continent."

 


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