HIV/AIDS re­sponse not tack­ling youths is­sues ad­e­quately – ex­perts

Daily Trust - - HEALTH - By Ruby Leo

Out of the 3.1 mil­lion Nige­ri­ans liv­ing with HIV/ AIDS, nearly half of that num­ber be­tween 15 and 24 years old have is­sues ac­cess­ing care in fa­cil­i­ties, ex­perts have said.

The coun­try di­rec­tor of the pop­u­la­tion coun­cil Nigeria, Dr. Ba­batunde Ahonsi noted that un­for­tu­nately though the Nige­rian youth is men­tioned in the na­tional re­sponse, im­ple­ment­ing those poli­cies has not yielded the de­sired re­sults leav­ing them to fend for them­selves.

Speak­ing at the Na­tional multi stake­holder di­a­logue events themed, “walk­ing the talk on youth friendly HIV pro­grams and ser­vices in Nigeria, Dr Ba­batunde Ahonsi said that a sur­vey con­ducted by the coun­cil re­vealed that the ex­ist­ing laws and poli­cies did not pro­mote the well be­ing of young people liv­ing with HIV and those in­volved in sex work, in­ject­ing drug users and same sex prac­tices.

“Al­though men who have sex with men (MSM), fe­male sex work­ers and in­ject­ing drug users are men­tioned as a vul­ner­a­ble group within the na­tional HIV/AIDS poli­cies, so­cial stigma and crim­i­nal­iza­tion of sex work and ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity and drug traf­fick­ing laws cre­ate a dis­en­abling en­vi­ron­ment to ef­fec­tively reach young most at risk pop­u­la­tion (MARPS),” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to him though the youths are men­tioned in the strate­gic HIV/AIDS plan but most ex­perts worry over the im­ple­men­ta­tion of ex­ist­ing youth- spe­cific ser­vice de­liv­ery guide­lines due to un­avail­abil­ity of funds.

Ear­lier, the Di­rec­tor Re­source Mo­bi­liza­tions of the Na­tional Con­trol of HIV/AIDS, Dr Em­manuel Al­has­san said the agency was do­ing ev­ery­thing in its power to en­sure that Nige­ri­ans ac­cess care.

He ex­plained that test­ing was vol­un­tary and can­not be forced on any­one but en­cour­aged that young people should avail them­selves of this op­por­tu­nity to know their sta­tus.

Pro­gram of­fi­cer of Ford Foun­da­tion West Africa, Pro­fes­sor Fri­day Okono­fua opin­ioned that Nige­ri­ans need to con­sider the im­por­tance of in­clud­ing sex­ual ed­u­ca­tion in the cur­ricu­lum of schools.

Okono­fua ex­plained that sta­tis­tics from other de­vel­oped coun­tries like Switzer­land, Fin­land, Nether­lands and Swe­den have shown that a knowl­edge­able child can pro­tect her­self from most risk fac­tors that can jeop­ar­dize her well be­ing.

“There is no way to pre­vent a young per­son from be­ing sex­ual ac­tive but we should pro­vide an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment for them to get care. Govern­ment should come up with a com­pre­hen­sive pol­icy that can ad­dress the prob­lems of all youths dis­pas­sion­ately,” he said.

Gover­nor Abi­ola Aji­mobi of Oyo State (sec­ond right) while re­ceiv­ing the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Nigeria, Dr. Rui Gama Vaz (sec­ond left) and the United Na­tions Team Leader, Dr. Dauda Toure (right) when they paid him a cour­tesy visit at the weekend. With them is the Sec­re­tary to the State Govern­ment, Mr. Is­mael Olalekan Alli (left).

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