Happy #WorldAIDSDay, Tobi Ogunlade tells why Nigeria may not be able to get rid of the virus and disease.
Reports have it that an estimated 60% of new HIV infections in Western and Central Africa in 2015 occurred in Nigeria, 80% of which are as a result of unprotected heterosexual sex, and an approximate 160,000 people died in 2016.
However, despite concerted efforts driven towards the knowledge of the virus and it’s successful eradication in Nigeria, a plethora of factors have continued to mitigate against this.
Only quite a small percentage of Nigerians do not know what HIV means, which accounts for the very remote areas where HIV has the highest prevalence indeed (4%). Efforts have been put in place especially in recent times to make people to be informed about the scourge yet many people still choose to have unprotected sex just for the flimsy excuse that it gives more pleasure than when a condom is used. Others find it difficult to stick to one sexual partner, and others just cannot but share items that should be personalized.
Perhaps, a major breakout factor is what some people call ‘’explore’’ as there is quite an increase in the number of people who are homosexuals and bisexuals. A somewhat ‘crazy’ desire to try out these ‘’new ideas’’ are reported to cause about 32% of new cases despite making up just 3.4% of the Nigerian population. Gloom.
We are also dealing with myths and traditional beliefs.
I read about a man that fell very sick and lost weight but refused to present himself to the hospital. He kept on taking herbal mixtures and threatened to kill any of his family members who wanted to ‘’bundle’’ him to the hospital. Eventually, he got to the hospital and was diagnosed with full blown advanced AIDS. As a polygamist, all his wives and close relations also tested positive for HIV. Such cases often lead to the transmission of the virus across individuals, smaller groups and ultimately community transmission.
Myths and superstitions are still the order of the day in modern Nigeria, irrespective of the level of education. Some people believe that simply talking to, or holding the hand of, or sitting on the seat previously used by someone with HIV would make them vulnerable.
These had caused painful stigmatization to People Living with HIV/AIDS and a vast majority of these people keep to themselves and aren’t motivated to go for treatment. There’s a funny twist to this as I’ve read of people who decided to ‘’punish’’ their ‘’tormentors’’ by going out to ‘’intentionally infect’’ unsuspecting and innocent people. What a way to ‘’keep the virus in circulation’’.
Political and Government Instability
Arguably a major determinant in the fight towards a complete eradication of the Virus in Nigeria. It’s usually an item for campaigns, usually part of the SDGs but unfortunately, it seems no one is ready to bell the cat.
Chief amongst this is the corrupt manner of our leaders. They exhibit self-centeredness and many of them only want to acquire wealth unscrupulously. This is why drugs which are provided for free by non-governmental organizations and other agencies are diverted for sale at exorbitant prices.
There’s also the problem of nepotism, where only people of a particular tribe, religion or region have access to full treatment.
Researchers are also frustrated. There’s zero to no motivation for those who are locally trying to find a cure and/or vaccine against the virus. As a result, many of them have to immigrate to other countries where they are given support and encouragement.
The issues mitigating against HIV/AIDS eradication eradication are multifactorial and need to be tackled one after the other. The truth is everyone has a part to play – the government, the society, even people living with the virus.