Expert seeks more investment to stop HIV/AIDS deaths

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Dr Idris Baba, HIV and AIDS Specialist, UNICEF Kaduna has called for increased investment and new focus on HIV response in the country to stem adolescent deaths due to HIV and AIDS.

Baba made the call in Zaria at a meeting with media executives in Kaduna State on Preventing Mother to Child Transmission of HIV and among Adolescents and Young Persons.

“The steady number of adolescent deaths due to AIDS, combined with a growing population of the world’s children aged 0 to 19 (projected to increase to 2.7 billion by 2030), requires partners in the HIV response for children and adolescents to refocus efforts and redouble investments.’’

He noted that Adolescents and young people in sub-Saharan Africa account for one-third of the 1.8 billion adolescents globally, which calls for a need to make more investments to focus on prevention.

“Sub-Saharan Africa, which Nigeria has the bulk of the population is the only region in the world where the population of AYP continues to grow substantially. It is projected that by 2025 the number of youth aged 10–24 in sub-Saharan Africa including Nigeria, will increase to 436 million and by 2050 the population is further projected to increase to 605 million.’’

According to him, about 190,000 adolescents aged 10–19 years were living with HIV in Nigeria with females disproportionately affected.

“The number of AIDS-related deaths among adolescents in 2013 was 11,000 and the number of new infections among them was 17,000 in the same year,’’ he added.

The expert said in spite of the tremendous advances made in the fight against HIV and AIDS, globally, still an adolescent girl is newly infected with HIV every three minutes.

“In 2017, 180,000 children under 15 were newly infected with HIV, nearly 91% in sub-Saharan Africa. An estimated 1.8 million adolescents (10–19 years old) were living with HIV worldwide in 2017 and only 1/2 of HIV-exposed babies are tested for HIV within the recommended time period. Also three million children aged 0–19 living with HIV and 52 per cent of children under 15 are accessing ART.”

Baba said there must be sustained investment to achieve 75% reduction of new HIV infections among adolescents and 65% reduction of AIDS related mortality among adolescents by 2020.

The UNICEF consultant stressed that factors putting adolescent at risk of contracting HIV must also be addressed including “multiple and concurrent sexual partnerships, inter-generational sex, sexual coercion, low risk perception, and transactional sex. Pervasive gender inequalities and gender-based violence, poverty, unemployment or underemployment, and widespread HIV-related stigma and discrimination. Also to be addressed are issues of traditional, religious, and cultural factors including early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation, and widow inheritance.’’

He added that the interventions to stem HIV/AIDS should also focus on providing effective sexually transmitted infection programme and ensure proper integration of HIV and AIDS and SRH services.

Bilkisu Pai