The National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA), the United Nations Children Fund, (UNICEF), the United States Agency for International Development (USAIDS) and other partners have said that youths participation in HIV/AIDS response is key to the elimination of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.
This was the consensus at the meeting with key stakeholders working on HIV response in Nigeria as well as 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 reside in Nigeria.
He noted that the poor knowledge of HIV preventive methods contributes to the increase in HIV prevalence and new infections.
He noted that only a third of young people in Nigeria could correctly identify prevention methods.
“The number of new infections continue to be quiet significant. Large proportions of our new infections occur in particularly 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 boss said.
He urged development partners, 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 added that 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 young people are always being left behind in the planning of policies.
He noted that being young is 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 that often times, youths are seen as parts of the problem rather than part of the solution.
Dr Fall added that UNICEF based on its mandates would standby Nigeria in its bid 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 need all the encouragement they can get towards access to treatment, to discuss their status and discuss openly.
Speaking on behalf of the Nigerian Business Coalition Against Aids, Mr. Gbenga Alabi, said that the strategy to be used to reached the youths must be well thought out.
He added that the private sector would support all the youths engagements.
The meeting identified that country has the second highest burden of adolescent HIV and it is not preventing new infections, enrolling and retaining young people in treatment fast enough, saying that with their strong drive, idealism and fresh ideas, young people can introduce new solutions to the challenges.
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 the HIV response in Nigeria.
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