HIV/AIDS Remains a Critical Health Challenge In Nigeria: Calls for Greater Awareness on Preventive Measures

Abuja, Nigeria. December 5th, 2017 – The World AIDS day was observed worldwide on December 1st  2017. The aim of this observance was to raise public awareness about preventive measures, proper treatment and management of HIV (Human Immuno-Deficiency Virus) to avoid progression to full blown AIDS (Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome).People around the world took advantage of the day to unite in the fight against HIV, show support for people living with it, and commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-associated illness.[1] The theme for the 2017 campaign was “My Health, My Right”; it focused on the right to health and it also explored the challenges people around the world face in exercising these rights. According to the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, during UNAIDS launch for the 2017 World AIDS Day campaign, all people regardless of their age, gender, where they live or who they love, have the right to health. He further added thatno matter what their health needs are, everyone requires health solutions that are available and accessible, free from discrimination and of good quality.[2] 

World AIDS Day reminds the public and government that HIV has not gone away as millions around the world are still living with HIV. A recent 2017 data report released by UNAIDS, disclosed that an estimated one million people worldwide died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2016 and as at the end of 2015, an estimated 36.7 million people around the world were living with HIV.[3] In Nigeria, the official HIV prevalence as reported by UNAIDS is 3.2 percent among the adult population, giving a total estimate of 3.4 million Nigerians living with HIV. This makes Nigeria the second largest HIV epidemic in the world and has one of the highest new infection rates in sub-Saharan Africa.[4] 

In the light of the 2017 World AIDS Day, NOIPolls reflects on some findings from its past poll on combating HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, highlighting its challenges, awareness on transmission and suggestions on reducing the epidemic. The poll which was conducted in 2013 revealed that the overwhelming majority (90 percent) of the respondents agreed that HIV/AIDS is a critical health challenge in Nigeria. Indeed, the HIV epidemic in Nigeria is an issue and differs extensively by region. In some regions, the epidemic is more concentrated and steered by high-risk behaviours, whereas some regions have more indiscriminate epidemics that are sustained primarily by multiple sexual partners in the general population.[5] According to the Director General, National Agency for the Control of AIDs (NACA), Sani Aliyu, during an interview with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) on HIV/AIDs in December 2016, he stated that at least 500 Nigerians die of HIV/AIDs daily, with an average new infection of 600 people every day.[6] Also, the UNAIDS 2017 data book reported that approximately 160,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses in Nigeria in 2016 and since 2005, the reduction in the number of annual AIDS-related deaths has been minimal, signifying that not all those living with HIV in Nigeria are accessing Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART).[7]

Furthermore, the poll revealed that most Nigerians are aware of the common mode of contracting HIV/AIDS as 86 percent mentioned sexual intercourse and residents from the North-East zone represent the larger share of Nigerians who are aware of this.In spite of this high awareness, the coordinator for HIV/AIDs in Borno state, during last year’s World AIDS day stated that about 5,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), in 27 different camps in the state are currently living with the virus.[8] It therefore becomes pertinent that the government and other relevant stakeholders ensure that as many people as possible get tested, and that treatment is made available for those who have tested positive to the virus.

In a bid to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, majority (51 percent) of the respondents believed that deploying more far reaching sensitization and media programs to create awareness about HIV/AIDS, its prevention and treatment plan would go a long way in combating the epidemic. It is worthy to note that 24 percent of respondents suggested that there should be more HIV testing centres in the country, and this has been identified as a critical tool in fighting the epidemic; it follows that if there were more test centres, more people would be aware of their status which would then inform preventive and management measures depending on the outcome of their results. Currently, a large number of people living with HIV in Nigeria are unaware of their status due limited number of HIV testing and counselling sites.[9]

In conclusion, the poll revealed that Nigerians are aware that HIV/AIDS is a critical health issue in the country which affects all population groups and geographical areas. Although Nigeria’s response to HIV/AIDS is guided by the National Strategic Framework 2017–2021, government and other stakeholders should mainly focus at ending AIDS by achieving zero new infections rate, zero AIDS related deaths, zero discrimination and elimination of mother-to-child transmission. 

Providing anti-retroviral treatment for Nigerians living with HIV doesn't only benefit those already living with HIV, it also naturally reduces the chance of onward transmission to others. When people are not on treatment, it is hard to tackle the HIV epidemic therefore; considerable commitment, funding and resources need to be organized to expand access to treatment as a preventive method. Also, the engagement of all members of the society, especially those who are most vulnerable to HIV, is key to a unified HIV response. Finally, HIV testing should be intensely encouraged among the Nigerian population to ensure everyone knows their HIV status because without knowing how many people are living with the virus, it is hard to reduce new infections and provide HIV treatment to all. 

Disclaimer

This press release has been produced by NOIPolls Limited to provide information on all issues which form the subject matter of the document. Kindly note that while we are willing to share results from our polls with the general public, we only request that NOIPolls be acknowledged as author whenever and wherever our poll results are used, cited or published. 

NOIPolls hereby certifies that all the views expressed in this document accurately reflect its views of respondents surveyed for the poll, and background information is based on information from various sources that it believes are reliable; however, no representation is made that it is accurate or complete. Whilst reasonable care has been taken in preparing this document, no responsibility or liability is accepted for errors or fact or for any views expressed herein by NOIPolls for actions taken as a result of information provided in this report. Any ratings, forecasts, estimates, opinions or views herein constitute a judgment as at the date of this document. If the date of this document is not current, the views and content may not reflect NOIPolls’ current findings and/or thinking. 

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[1] http://www.catie.ca/en/world-aids-day

[2] http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/presscentre/pressreleaseandstatementarchive/2017/november/20171106_myhealth-myright

[3] http://www.catie.ca/en/world-aids-day

[4] http://nigeriahealthwatch.com/how-many-nigerians-are-living-with-hiv/

[5] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1319562X16300110

[6] https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/more-news/217040-500-nigerians-die-hivaids-daily-naca.html

[7] http://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/20170720_Data_book_2017_en.pdf

[8] https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/more-news/217040-500-nigerians-die-hivaids-daily-naca.html

[9] https://www.avert.org/professionals/hiv-around-world/sub-saharan-africa/nigeria