By: Ojo Oriyomi Ademola
World Aids Day is an international day marked annually on the first day of December to celebrate and promote global support to prevent the spread of HIV infections. It is also a day to recognise the pivotal roles that communities and organizations have played globally to eradicate Aids epidemic. Although some few days ago, the topic of HIV/AIDS should never cease to be discussed.
In Nigeria, regardless of both local and international efforts that have been garnered to curb the epidemic,as at 2018, about 1.9 million people were still living with HIV. Making the country the second largest epidemic in the world. The reason for this can be attributed to a number of factors which includes but not limited to the following.
Many people living with HIV are unaware of their status, hence, they stand in situations to transmit the disease to others through sexual intercourse and other forms which the disease could be transmitted. Moreso, punitive laws aganist homosexuality in the country means that men who have sex with men face huge difficulty accessing HIV services.
The high level of extreme poverty in specific regions in the country have led many ladies, especially young girls to engage in transactional sex for cash to carter for their needs.
Lack or low level of access to antiretroviral treatment remains an issue for most people living With HIV, especially in the regions of the country where the population of people with the disease is high. Also, in some parts of the country, people see the use of any form of protection during sex as a taboo, thereby making the spread of the epidemic easy.
However, regardless of the progress in the number of AIDS related deaths since 2010, according to UNAIDS, the number of AIDS related deaths reduced from 72,000 to 53,000 deaths. The number of new HIV infections increased from 120 000 to 130 000 in that same period.
States in Nigeria that accounts for about 41% of people living with HIV includes Benue, Akwa Ibom, Kano and Kaduna. HIV rate is at its climax in the Southern(South South) which accounts for about 5.5%.while it is at the lowest in the SouthEastern part of the country 1.8%. There are higher rates of HIV in rural areas 4% than the urban areas 3%. In 2017, almost 150,000 people died of HIV related illness in Nigeria.
Although, there have been several plans of action to end the AIDS epidemic in Nigeria, one important fact we need to note is that, it is impossible to end the epidemic in Nigeria without bringing HIV treatment to all those that need it.
As we celebrate this year world AIDS day, and strengthening efforts towards actualizing vision 90-90-90, the following are suggested targets that should be achieved
A comprehensive HIV lesson should be included in the school curriculum. This should include basic facts about HIV transmission and prevention. Also, issues such as stigma, discrimination, should be discussed among student. Making them understand that people with HIV are not less human, and they do not need to be castigated in the community.
People should be sensitized about the danger of unprotected sex thereby promoting a stronger focus towards enlightening the people on the relevance of protecting themselves during sexual intercourse with their partners.
Also punitive laws against (MSM) men who have sex with men should be lifted. This law does not permit individuals in the category access to antiretroviral medications. Antiretroviral treatment should be increased in most medical centers so that those with HIV will have access to the treatment as easy as possible.
More focus should be on regions or areas that has the highest concentration of the disease. Civil society and government should concentrate more on areas that has more rate of people with HIV in the country.