Home Health Over 2.7 million young persons live with HIV in Nigeria 

Over 2.7 million young persons live with HIV in Nigeria 

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…41 percent of HIV new cases in Nigeria occur among youths, experts

Andy Esiet, , Calabar

The United Nations  Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has declared that about 2.7 million young people in Nigeria live with HIV as the graph is almost flat over past few years. 

According to the latest UNICEF global snapshot on children and HIV and AIDS in a release made available to some newsmen in Calabar yesterday said, “around the world 110,000 children and adolescents (0-19 years) died from AIDs-related causes during 2021. Meanwhile, another 310,000 were newly infected, bringing the total number of young people living with HIV to 2.7 million” .

Ahead of World AIDS Day, UNICEF warns that “progress in HIV prevention and treatment for children, adolescents, and pregnant women has nearly flatlined over the past three years, with many regions still not at pre-COVID-19 service coverage. This comes on top of an existing and growing gap in treatment between children and adults”.

UNICEF Associate Chief of HIV/AIDS Anurita Bains, said “though children have long lagged behind adults in the AIDS response, the stagnation seen in the last three years is unprecedented, putting too many young lives at risk of sickness and death.

“Children are falling through the cracks because we are collectively failing to find and test them and get them on life-saving treatment. Every day that goes by without progress, over 300 children and adolescents lose their fight against AIDS.. Despite accounting for only 7 per cent of overall people living with HIV, children and adolescents comprised 17 per cent of all AIDS-related deaths, and 21 per cent of new HIV infections in 2021″.

The statement said “between 2014 and 2021, the number of new infections among children and adolescents aged 0 to 14 decreased globally by roughly 27%, but it rose by 13% in Nigeria. Unless the drivers of inequities are addressed, UNICEF warns, ending AIDS in children and adolescents will continue to be a distant dream.

“However, the snapshot points out that longer-term trends remain positive. New HIV infections among younger children (0-14 years) dropped by 52 per cent from 2010 to 2021, and new infections among adolescents (15-19 years) also dropped by 40 per cent. Similarly, coverage of lifelong antiretroviral treatment (ART) among pregnant women living with HIV increased from 46 per cent to 81 per cent in a single decade. In the last seven years, the percentage of pregnant women with HIV who are receiving lifetime antiretroviral treatment (ART) grew slightly from 79% to 81% globally but declined from 57% to 34% in Nigeria”.

While the total number of children living with HIV is on the decline, UNICEF said “the treatment gap between children and adults continues to grow. In UNICEF HIV-priority countries, ART coverage for children stood at 56 per cent in 2020 but fell to 54 per cent in 2021. This decline is due to several factors including the COVID-19 pandemic and other global crises, which have increased marginalisation and poverty, but is also a reflection of waning political will and a flagging AIDS response in children. Globally, an even lower percentage of children living with HIV had access to treatment (52%), which has only marginally increased over the past few years.

“Meanwhile, coverage among all adults living with HIV (76%) was more than 20 percentage points higher than among children. The gap was even larger between children and pregnant women living with HIV (81%). Alarmingly, the percentage of children between the ages of 0-4 years living with HIV and not on ART has been rising over the past seven years, climbing to 72 per cent in 2021, as high as it was in 2012”.

In a similar development, the Nigerian National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) in partnership with the Maximizing Options to Advance Informed Choice for HIV Prevention (MOSAIC) project, have declared that HIV remains a serious health challenge in Nigeria with 41 percent of new cases occurring among young people ages 15 to 24.

This was contained in a statement yesterday made available to some newsmen in Calabar by the the Generation Negative (Gen-N) campaign , which the organisations said contributing to this is the fact that “among 10–14-year-olds, only 1.4 percent of girls and 1.7 percent of boys demonstrated a comprehensive knowledge of HIV (NAIIS 2018). Likewise, the 2018 NDHS reported that only 43 percent of young women and 34 percent of young men aged 15-24 have comprehensive knowledge of HIV” 

The Gen-N campaign said the Nigerian National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) in partnership with the Maximizing Options to Advance Informed Choice for HIV Prevention (MOSAIC) project supported by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), seeks to build a movement fueled by the country’s 43.2 million youth ages 15 to 24 to catalyze uptake of HIV prevention, treatment and care services by adolescents and young people in Nigeria.

The Gen-N campaign “seeks to identify Gen-N Heroes (community leaders, health workers and youth themselves) who will remove barriers to accessing care and serve as community champions to inspire and enable youth and their peers to adopt healthy behaviors and remain HIV Negative.  The goal of an HIV-free generation is within reach – if everyone takes part”.

NACA’s Deputy Director and Head of Prevention Dr. Daniel Ndukwe stated that “It is within our power to stop the spread of HIV, but we cannot expect young people to do it alone when they are shamed for visiting health facilities, taking medications, or buying condoms”.  

Dr. Ndukwe encouraged young people to take action as Gen-N heroes by accessing available HIV prevention and treatment services and encouraging other young people to support peers to remain HIV negative and live positively.  Through meaningful engagement with adolescents and young people, the campaign will build trust and encourage young people to take ownership of their sexual health to remain” .

The Youth Advisor for MOSAIC project, a young person herself, Ms. Adaobi Olisa, noted that “Gen-N is a promise of hope and now is the right time with the rising number of new HIV infections among adolescents and young people in sub-Saharan Africa.”  

She also explained that young people in Nigeria fear HIV, but they are also afraid of being judged by their parents, peers, health care providers and partners, so most of them are not taking steps to protect themselves.  Gen-N provides a unique platform to bring all youth-focused HIV communication under one umbrella and to re-energize young people to strive for an HIV free generation.

The statement said, “USAID is proud to support the Government of Nigeria’s efforts for inclusive approaches to achieve HIV epidemic control through PEPFAR especially amongst our youth.  USAID supports comprehensive services for more than 690,000 people on HIV treatment in 17 states and delivers HIV commodities including test kits, antiretroviral medicines, and laboratory commodities to supported facilities across Nigeria”.

The Gen-N campaign is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). 

Today is World AIDS Day and Nigeria’s youth are gearing up to lead the first-ever national youth-focused HIV prevention campaign that will harness the collective energy of Nigeria’s youth to realize an HIV-negative generation.

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