By; Alex Uangbaoje, Kaduna.
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has revealed that about one hundred and Seventy five thousand (175,000) adolescents in Nigeria are currently living with HIV/AIDS.
UNICEF disclosed this in a presentation by Abdelkader Bacha, UNICEF Regional Adviser, HIV/AIDS Adolescents, Central Africa Office, Dakar, during the introduction of the ‘ALL IN’ Initiative for ending HIV/AIDS in adolescents in Nigeria.
He said though, HIV prevalence is declining globally, but prevalence among children between the ages of 10 to 19 keep increasing as boys and girls in Nigeria records up to 78 and 79 percent respectively.
He blamed the development on the inability of stakeholders to carry children and adolescent along in the fight against the virus.
According to him, only 30 per cent of adolescents in Africa and 12 to 13 per cent in Nigeria knows their HIV status.
“The number of adolescents dying of HIV/AIDS kept increasing largely because majority of the age group living with the virus are not on treatment.
“Also, quite a number of them do not know that they are infected.
“Also of note is that 79.9 per cent girls and 78.8 per cent boys indicate willingness to be tested, but only 12.4 and 13 per cent of boys and girls respectively are tested,” Bacha said.
He said that the situation was a cause of concern for development partners who were working out ways to end HIV related deaths among adolescents.
Bacha said that the “All In One’’ approach sought to bring all stakeholders dealing with the issues concerning adolescents together to form a united front in the fight against the virus.
“The objective is to reduce new infection by 75 per cent, reduce AIDS related mortality among adolescents by 65 per cent in 2020 and end adolescent AIDS epidemic by 2030,” he said.
Bacha said that for the approach to be successful, there was need to come up with data to determine those affected and living with HIV and those that are not infected, but are exposed.
Bacha explained that the meeting with Kaduna State AIDS Control Agency (KADSACA) and other stakeholders in the sector is to strategise on ways to effectively manage the ‘ALL IN ONE’ programme in the State for a proper take off.
On her part, Dr. Chewe Luo, HIV/AIDs Programme, UNICEF Headquarters New York, said the purpose of the programme is to ensure that adolescents and children are not left behind in the effort to eliminate HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030.
”The ‘ALL IN’ initiative is about ending AIDS in adolescents, and what we are trying to do is to galvanise the global community governments to come together with us on this.
”What we are moving forward with is working with national governments to say, what are we going to do differently for this particular population?
“What is very clear to UNICEF is that when you look at new infections in adolescents and when you look at mortality in adolescents, adolescents are very much left behind. Adolescents death due to HIV has become the number one killer in Africa and number two in the world.
”So we need to come together as a community to look at these perspectives and to see what can be done differently. So one of the things that we know that is critical to this process is to collate the data that we have, look at it, not just as policy makers but let the adolescents also look at it and tell us and tell us what we are doing wrong”. Dr. Luo explained.
She revealed that UNICEF’s team met with the Kaduna State Deputy Governor and that she is satisfied with the government commitment in eradicating HIV/AIDS by 2030.
”Kaduna has been prioritised in Nigeria to initiate this whole movement around ‘ALL IN’ which is very exciting. One of the things taken from that meeting is the government’s commitment to move the HIV needle in the state, as a whole not just the adolescents. And they are committed to the resources that are required in putting an end to HIV in Kaduna”.