As part of efforts to minimise Nigeria’s adolescent HIV burden and prevent new infections, the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) in collaboration with the United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nation Agency on AIDS (UNAIDS), has identified young people’s participation and private sector engagement as key.
It is estimated that 10 per cent of adolescents living with HIV globally reside in Nigeria and that the country has the second highest burden of adolescent HIV.
Nigeria is also rated among countries that are not preventing new infections, enrolling and retaining young people in treatment fast enough.
Speaking at the Meeting on Private Sector Engagement, Promoting Adolescents’ and Young People’s Participation in HIV Response, recently in Abuja. UNICEF representative in Nigeria, Mohammed Fall, said young people are engine for development that desperately want their voice to be heard and also need to have a place around the table.
Fall therefore charged the private sector to contribute their quota in ensuring that young people are involved in the HIV response programme while assuring of UNICEF support for the government of Nigeria and NACA.
On his part, the Director General of NACA, Dr. Sani Aliyu, lamented that the high rate of HIV infection among young people was partly due to lack of knowledge in HIV prevention measures.
He said, “There was a survey that shows that only one third of young people were able to correctly identify prevention measures. There is also lack of access to sexual and reproductive health.
“There are other issues including early sexual debut is a problem, inter-generational sex is also a problem because the older you are, you are more likely to have the resources to be able to get young partners and at the same the young partners will not have the ability to negotiate sex effectively.”
Sani advocated the support of the private sector, saying “We are inviting the private sector to leverage this opportunity to invest in adolescents, to put money where we are most likely to get the highest impact when it comes to HIV prevention.”
Also speaking, UNAIDS Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr Erasmus Morah, lamented that young people are being left behind. According to him, “When you look at the figure, Nigeria has over a million people under treatment, we are leaving the young people and children behind in terms of treatment.
“So, not too young to be infected and being left behind and that is what we want this meeting to give a clear message, being young is an opportunity for the nation,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the private sector, Gbenga Alabi, noted that his group was ready to engage the young people not only in HIV response but in other areas.
“For us at the private sector, we appreciate the fact that the youth are the leaders of tomorrow and that is why we have to engage them. Not only engaging them, effectively engaging them,” he said.
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