New Telegraph

December 8, 2023

Experts task FG, others on HIV interventions

Stakeholders in health have urged the Federal , State Government and other relevant agencies to continue to supportforHIVpreventionwhileadvocating for progressive policies and programmes. This appeal was made at a media roundtable organised recently by a 2020 AVAC Fellow in partnership with Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS).

Theroundtablewiththetheme“Advocating for Supportive Policy and Programmes for Effective HIV Prevention Interventions” was on the role of media in HIV prevention advocacy. The Key Population (KP) Advisor, Heartland Alliance, Mr. Michael Akanji, explained that Nigeria aims to ensure 90 per cent of the populations, including key and vulnerable population have access to HIV combination prevention interventions by 2020, and 95 per cent by 2030.

Akanji further said that the challenges affecting speed and scale of KP HIV prevention is the geographical coverage of interventions which is in a few states which also makes majority of KPs not to be reached, stating: “Imbalance in our investment of resources such that interventions needed by majority of KPs are least funded while interventions needed by fewer KPs are funded most.

“We need more investment in prevention in order to match our investment in treatment because we cannot leave people to be getting infested and we are much more interested in putting money intreatingthem.

So, weneed to move towards investment in prevention,” he said. In her remarks, Executive Director, JAAIDS, Mrs. Olayide Akanni, said it is focusing on prevention because it remains the best option of the response, adding that evidence for success in prevention efforts includes sustained processes that are combining socio-behavioral interventions with biomedical and structural. She lamented that prevention interventions werestillbeingunderfundedasmoreemphasis has been placed on treatment over the years. Akanni, noted that UNAIDS 2018 data indicates that key populations and their sexual partners accounted for 64 per cent of all new infections within the West and Central Africa (WCA) region, while 160 young women aged 15 to 24 years become infected with HIV in the WCA region every day.

She said Nigeria’s HIV prevalence stands at 1.5 per cent in the 15 to 49-year-old population, saying: “The prevalence of HIV for KPs remains significantly higher: 27.4 per cent for brothel-based female sex workers, 21.7 per cent for non-brothel-based female sex workers, 17.2 per cent for men who have sex with men, and 10.4 per cent for people who inject drugs.

“Over the last years, Nigeria has focused a lot on treatment on HIV at the expense of prevention and we are explaining that you cannot continue to mop the floor when the tap is open. We need to turn off the tap of new infections as well make sure there is treatment available. We still have gaps in prevention and there is not enough of investment in prevention.”

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