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Alarming HIV Resurgence in Nigeria Sparks Concerns on World AIDS Day

Despite past achievements, recent data reveals a concerning rise in HIV infections, prompting renewed calls for urgent intervention.

As the world marks another World AIDS Day, Nigeria finds itself grappling with a resurgence of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) pandemic, eroding the gains made in previous years. Startling statistics from the National HIV/AIDS Impact Survey conducted by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) paint a troubling picture, indicating a notable increase in HIV infections across many states in the country.

Aids Card. World Aids Day Concept. Vector Illustration Royalty Free SVG,  Cliparts, Vectors, and Stock Illustration. Image 68425183.

During a recent oversight function for several agencies, the National Assembly House Committee on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Leprosy, and Malaria expressed apprehension about the prevalence of HIV/AIDS infections as documented by the NACA. The data underscores the urgency of addressing the evolving challenges in the fight against HIV.

Biennial antenatal clinic (ANC) HIV sero-prevalence sentinel surveys, conducted since 1991, have been pivotal in tracking the epidemic. The national ANC HIV prevalence rate has witnessed fluctuations, rising from 1.8% in 1991 to 5.8% in 2001, and later dropping to 4.1% in 2010. Notably, central and southern states have consistently reported higher prevalence rates, with Benue and Cross Rivers bearing the brunt. Benue, in particular, recorded the highest prevalence in 2001, 2005, and 2010.

In 2010, the United States government allocated approximately US$456.5 million to combat the spread of the HIV epidemic in Nigeria. At that time, Nigeria ranked as the second-highest HIV burden globally, with an estimated 3.2 million people living with HIV (PLHIV). Presently, Nigeria maintains its position as the second-largest burden of HIV infection, with 1.8 million persons estimated to be living with HIV, and about 1.63 million already on Anti-retroviral Therapy (ART).

Recent NACA data indicates that approximately 58% of PLHIV are female, and 42% male. The national average mother-to-child transmission rate of 22% reveals a concerning trend in some states, with transmission rates exceeding 25%. Nigeria shoulders about 30% of the global gap in Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT), highlighting the urgent need for targeted interventions.

Despite progress in HIV prevention methods, there remains a significant challenge in the adoption of condoms, a cost-effective option for preventing HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and unplanned pregnancies. A 2020 survey revealed that only 34% of Nigerians use condoms during sex, indicating a crucial gap in preventive measures.

On this year’s World AIDS Day themed “Communities: Leadership to End AIDS by 2030,” there is a renewed call for increased sensitization efforts, especially in rural communities. To achieve the global target of ending AIDS in Nigeria by 2030, addressing social and structural factors that drive the HIV epidemic is imperative. Director General of NACA, Dr. Gambo Aliyu, emphasizes the need for collective actions to shape a future free from HIV/AIDS.

As the world progresses towards declaring HIV/AIDS no longer a public health issue, Nigeria faces the imperative task of addressing the fundamentals of prevention. The challenge lies in confronting systemic inequalities, ensuring equal access to life-saving services, and eliminating social factors that perpetuate the scourge. In the words of Dr. Gambo Aliyu, “Let our actions today shape a tomorrow where HIV/AIDS is a chapter of our past, and every individual can live a life of health, dignity, and hope.”

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