HIV/AIDS response not tackling youths issues adequately – experts
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).