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NACA report reveals singles contribute highest to HIV infections

. UNAIDS says virus undermines sustainable development

Victor Uzoho

The Director-General, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Dr Gambo Aliyu, has disclosed that single men and women constitute the highest numbers of persons infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in Nigeria.

Speaking on the just-released report, Aliyu said while individuals who were never married contributed 64 per cent of the virus, especially among female sex workers (FSW), and men who have sex with men (MSM) make up 91 per cent of all new infections among adults.

According to him, the younger generations who are never married do not use prevention and do not listen or want to have anything to do with HIV services.

He said: “If we can reach them and connect them, we can come closer to reducing the pandemic. The younger people living with the virus need to be reached with services to curtail transmission among them and new-borns.

“To reduce child infections due to mother-to-child transmission, we must go beyond the hospital and go to the communities to deliver services. We are working at hospitals and community levels; they now have more access. Expectant mothers who don’t go for antenatal service are now reached at the comfort of their homes.”

He disclosed that NACA, in collaboration with development partners, is working tirelessly to develop strategies to stem the spread of HIV in the country.

The report revealed that the unmarried population, which is the youth, mostly between the ages of 17 to 34 for females, and 19 to 31 for men, is the largest contributor to new infections.

The report therefore stressed the need for special efforts to be made to reach the youth population in schools, workplaces, gathering spots, and especially through social media.

Indeed, the UNIADS reiterates that a core principle of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and of the AIDS response, is that no one should be left behind. “People living with HIV often live in fragile communities and are frequently discriminated against, marginalized and affected by inequality and instability—their concerns therefore must be at the forefront of sustainable development efforts.”

As a result, the United Nations system, including UNAIDS, works towards achieving the entire SDG agenda, which include 10 SDGs – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11, 16 and 17 that are particularly relevant to the response to AIDS.

Meanwhile, the NACA report also revealed new infections through new-borns due to low coverage of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), noting that efforts will be targeted at encouraging women to attend Antenatal Care (ANC), especially in high prevalence states.

People living with HIV often live in fragile communities and are frequently discriminated against, marginalized and affected by inequality and instability—their concerns therefore must be at the forefront of sustainable development efforts.

It urged increased efforts especially for the highest risk FSW and MSM, notwithstanding their small population, as despite the high levels of reported condom use; prevalence remains high among sex workers and MSM.

“Although there is a law against MSM in Nigeria, the law does not deny them access to services or restrain us from delivering service to them. They can assess our HIV services across the country,” the NACA report said.

To this end, the Mode of Transmission Study (MOT) focuses on identifying the sources of new HIV infections in the country and was first conducted in 2009 and was recently repeated, using an updated model known as the Incidence Pattern Model (IPM).

Studies have shown that HIV/AIDS severely undermines the development prospects of many African countries, most of which have recorded shockingly high prevalence rates of the epidemic as is the case with Nigeria.

According to such studies, “The epidemic is decimating human capital and institutions, perpetuating intergenerational poverty and inequality, and threatening the security of populations and countries.”

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