efforts

CSOs decry efforts to sabotage FG’s free antiretroviral program

….commends NACA’s plan to establish HIV Trust Fund

By Gabriel Ewepu, Abuja

Two Civil Society Organisations, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, and Transparency International Nigeria, Thursday, decried contractors allegedly sabotaging the Federal Government’s effort on the sustenance of free antiretroviral drugs for 3.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the country.

This was contained in a statement signed by Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, and made available to Vanguard, where they also alleged that the contractors were aided to defraud the government by insiders at the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, NACA, who prevent the Agency from buying HIV drugs directly from original manufacturers.

According to CISLAC/TI Nigerian contractors currently sell the anti-retroviral drugs at $13 per patient as against $7 given by the manufacturers.

The statement reads in part, “While international treaties and governments across the world recognize adequate, accessible, and affordable health care as a fundamental human right, medicine financing in Nigeria is generally out-of-pocket.

“The continued rise in price has made many essential and prescription medications unaffordable, and therefore inaccessible, by quite a large number of Nigerians, who live below the poverty line. This without a doubt comes with grave consequences of morbidity and mortality to consumers of health care products in Nigeria.

“The non-affordability triggered by high production and supply costs encourages the sale of fake and substandard drugs in the country, while consumers who are compelled to seek cheaper drug alternatives ceaselessly fall prey to fake and substandard drugs with damage to their health.

“As the Nigerian government struggles to sustain the provision of free antiretroviral drugs as part of HIV programmes at health facilities in the country for an estimated 3.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS, this effort is mostly sabotaged by inflated prices quoted by supplying contractors, whose activities

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DOJ backs Capitol Hill Baptist Church efforts to hold services in DC

The Department of Justice is siding with the Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s attempts to hold outdoor worship services in Washington, D.C.

The DOJ filed a statement of interest in the case contending the Constitution and federal law require the District of Columbia to allow the church to hold services outdoors, in the same way D.C. allows other types of outdoor First Amendment activities, including peaceful protests.

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The U.S. government argues in the brief that, “While a local government has significant discretion to decide what measures to adapt to meet a public health threat, the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution requires that, whatever level of restriction it adopts, government must treat religious gatherings the same as comparable nonreligious gatherings.”

The statement of interest was filed in Capitol Hill Baptist Church v. Bowser, which challenges DC’s refusal to allow certain outdoor worship because of the city’s COVID-19 restrictions. The suit points out that while places of worship are limited to 100 people at outdoor worship services, these limits do not apply to outdoor protests and rallies, which have been attended by thousands of people.

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“The right to free exercise of religion and the right to protest are both enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution. We are a nation dedicated to freedom of conscience and freedom of expression. The District of Columbia has, unfortunately, neglected these rights,” said Eric Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice is committed to defending both of these fundamental freedoms and in supporting all Americans’ rights to worship as they choose.”

Capitol Hill Baptist Church has more than 850 members and its leadership wants to meet in person as a

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