‘Positive HIV messages are increasing high risk behaviors’

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“People think HIV is no longer a problem because the medications are there and they work very well.”

In attempt to encourage more Nigerians to go for HIV testing and to assist people living with the virus to come to terms with the diagnosis, begin treatment and start living healthily, medical experts and organizers of advocacy events often attempt to tell individuals that the disease cannot stop them from doing anything that please them – a development that NACA DG has said may be counterproductive.

According to Sani Aliyu, Director General of the National Agency for the Control of HIV/AIDS, NACA, there is a huge scale out in the number of people that have been tested for HIV.

“At the moment, a lot of people think HIV is no longer a problem because the medications are there and they work very well and people will remain healthy for life. If you are going to live to be 70 or 80 without HIV, you will live to be same age with HIV if you take your drugs. But that sort of message at this time is to a certain extent increasing high risk behaviour and it is important that people really get tested,” he said in an interview with Premium Times.

He argued that instead of the carpet generalization, attention should be given to  certain groups that are higher prone to the disease – the key population. The female sex worker for example, and pregnant women.

“Because the intervention that are available, the medication can actually stop transmission from mother to child. The risk of transmitting HIV from mother to child without treatment is about 30 per cent and reduces to about 1 percent if the medication is taken.

‘In addition to that, if you are on medication and the amount of virus in your blood stream is very low, what we call virological separation, you are even less likely to transmit the virus to your partner even when with un-protective sex. The risk significantly comes down. And in fact, one of the approaches that we are adopting is to start thinking of using treatment as prevention in itself, because the more people that are on treatment, the lower the number of highly infectious people living within the society and that way, the transmission rate will be much lesser. So we are talking of treatment and prevention in itself as a package to reduce transmission of HIV.”

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