The National Agency for the Control of Aids, the United Nations Children Fund, United States Agency for International Development and other stakeholders said youths participation in HIV/AIDS response was key to the elimination of HIV|AIDs in Nigeria.
This was the consensus during the meeting with key stakeholders working on HIV response in Nigeria and members of the private sector, held in Abuja.
The meeting focused on the role of private sector using its influence to drive change in the society.
Speaking at the meeting, the Director General of NACA, Dr. Sani Aliyu, said that 10% of the adolescents living with HIV globally resided in Nigeria.
He said the poor knowledge of HIV preventive methods contributed to the increase in HIV prevalence and new infections.
He said only a third of young people in Nigeria could correctly identify prevention methods.
“The number of new infections continue to be quite significant. Large proportions of our new infections occur in females between the ages of 15 to 24. The reasons for this is quite clear, in 2016 alone we estimate that we have about 46,000 new infections in females and 34,000 new infections in young men. We did a survey where only 2% of young females and 4% of young men had tested for HIV in the last 12 months of the survey. By 2020 we expect that 50% of the adolescent population should have tested for HIV,” the NACA DG said.
He urged development partners and the private sector to join hands with NACA to come up with initiatives to engage the youths and find the most effective way of tackling HIV/AIDS.
Dr. Aliyu urged the private sector to as part of their cooperate social responsibility, invest in the implementation of the Adolescent and Young People initiative to achieve demographic dividends.
He said it was time young people were made to contribute to the programming on HIV in Nigeria.
On his part, the Country Director of the United States Agency for International Development, Mr. Erasmus Morah, said that young people were always being left behind in the planning of policies.
He said being young was an opportunity that must be harnessed for national development.
Dr. Morah urged the government to invest in social media to reach out to the youths in Nigeria.
Also speaking, the UNICEF Country Representative, Mr. Muhammed Fall, said that it was time, governments all over the world, see young people as engines of development.
He said youths were seen as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
Dr Fall said the UNICEF based on its mandates would stand by Nigeria to involve young people in the efforts to curb the spread of HIV.
The President of the Association of Positive Youths, Mr. Muhammed Isa, said that young people needed all the encouragement they could get towards access to treatment, to discuss their status and discuss openly.
Preventing new infections
Speaking on behalf of the Nigerian Business Coalition Against Aids, Mr. Gbenga Alabi, said that the strategy to be used to reach the youths must be well thought out.
He said the private sector would support all the youths engagements.
The meeting identified that the Country has the second highest burden of adolescent HIV which requires preventing new infections, enrolling and retaining young people in fast treatment.
The event culminate in the award ceremony of the winners of the Adolescents’ and Young People’s HIV Challenge in Nigeria, where three deserving youths groups were presented with a Cheque of one million naira each.
The competition, organised by NACA, Population Council and UNICEF, was held to enable meaningful participation of adolescents and young people in HIV response in Nigeria.