SHOCKING HIV STATS IN NIGERIA
HIV in Nigeria vs HIV in South Africa
When you ask the average Nigerian what they think about HIV in South Africa and in Nigeria, they are likely to refer to South Africa as the HIV capital and believe that the disease is foreign to Nigeria. This unfortunate lack of information could be one of the greatest threats to combating HIV in Nigeria.
Facts and Figures of HIV
The statistics from Nigeria show that HIV is a threat and a problem that requires urgent attention. Currently, Nigeria has the second largest epidemic in the world and even though its prevalence among adults is 2.9%, which is small in size compared to South Africa with 18.9%, the size of the Nigerian population means that 3.2 million people were living with HIV In 2016.
In 2016, 160,000 people died from AIDS-related illness while in South Africa 110,000 deaths were recorded; but keep in mind that the prevalence of HIV in South Africa is 18.9% which accounts for 7.1 million people living with the disease. This shows that we have more deaths in Nigeria despite the fact that we have half the prevalence rate of South Africa.
Children and HIV
This might be one of the most shocking statistics that I have come across this year; showing Nigeria to have more infected babies than anywhere in the world. Nigeria currently has 37,000 newly infected children compared to South Africa with 12,000 newly infected babies.
It is highly demoralizing to hear this as the transmission of HIV from mother to child is highly preventable if the infected women are put on Antiretroviral Medicine; but for one to be treated, the women need to be aware of their status.
HIV Status Awareness
In Nigeria, the greater population have not recognized HIV as a threat; hence we notice reluctance from the Citizens in regards to HIV testing. A huge number continue to associate HIV related illness to spiritual problems.
Knowledge of HIV Prevention
Combating HIV requires that we first become aware of the facts of HIV and more importantly familiarize ourselves with ways to accurately prevent the disease.
Antiretroviral Treatment Programs
South Africa currently has the largest ART programs in the world, where 65% of the people living with HIV are presently receiving treatment compared to 30% in Nigeria, and just 21% of children receiving treatment.
This low rate of HIV treatment in Nigeria can be attributed to the fact that the country relies on International donors to fund programs tacking HIV; Nigeria lacks domestics’ funds and programs but South Africa funds almost all their HIV programs domestically and receives just 13% from International Donors.
Nigeria’s response so far to tackling HIV domestically has been to demand that each state contribute up to 1% of their monthly allocation from the Federal Government towards HIV response.
Other Groups Affected By HIV
HIV & Men Who Sleep with Men
The rate of HIV prevalence continues to rise in men who sleep with men- In 2016 they overtook sex workers as the most affected by HIV in Nigeria with the prevalence of 23%
The Nigerian Government has put up laws that anyone “assisting couples” may face up to 10 years in jail and also increased the punishment for homosexuality to 14 years in jail.
One wonders if the Government understands the ripple effect of such criminalizing laws. Men who sleep with men already suffer a high level of discrimination in the society as a recent study found that only 30% of the people polled believed that homosexuals should have access to healthcare.
It is very evident that these laws that seek to criminalize the LGBT communities make it harder for civil society organizations to work with them, and also forces homosexuals to hide, hence making them more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.
HIV & Sex-Workers
Regardless of the fact that there’s been a significant drop in the HIV prevalence of sex workers from 24.5% in 2013 to 14.4% in 2016, the HIV prevalence is still eight times higher than the general population.
We are fully aware that sex work is illegal in Nigeria, warranting 2 years in imprisonment and even though there’s no law against health care providers providing sex workers with care; sex workers fear that they might be shamed or stigmatized and refuse to disclose their profession to the healthcare workers.
Young People and HIV
In 2016, 240,000 adolescents (between the ages of 10-19) were living with HIV, making up for 7% of the total number of people living with HIV.
Nigeria is the only country in the world where mortality in 10- 14 years is still growing; a clear indication that the health outcomes for adolescents living in HIV are poor.
There’s also a lack of knowledge and appropriate sexual and reproductive health services. A report shows that only 29% of women and 27.9% of men (between ages of 15- 24) could correctly identify ways of preventing transmission of HIV and reject major myths around transmission,
Inter-generational relationships are also common as a survey done in 2017 found that 41.2% of women aged 15- 24 have had sexual partners ten or more years older than them in the last 12 months. This increases HIV risk among this group because often the virus is passed from older men to younger women.
I would have liked the research to verify if these sexual activities were consensual and also discuss if they were transactional in nature- allowing us to fully understand the bargaining power the young women had.
We live in a global world where we continue to travel and mingle with people from all walks from life; we cannot afford to be blinded by ignorance.
We must no longer believe that certain diseases are foreign to any country and take the bull by the horn when we speak of HIV. South Africa realized that the disease was eating deep into their country and decided to make great efforts towards combating it, but in Nigeria, there are still a lot of misconceptions, shame and, the stigma around HIV.
Many people are highly misinformed on ways to prevent HIV or on the facts of the disease which signifies that the disease will continue to spread; and also make it more difficult for the groups affected such as sex workers and men who sleep with men to access HIV services due to the criminalizing laws.
Attitudes of healthcare workers and provision of youth-friendly services need to be looked into in order to make it easier for young people to access HIV services.
We have a long way to go in Nigeria but in order to tackle this; we must first become aware of the realities on the ground- that is the fact that we have an HIV epidemic!