By LAIDE AKINBOADE
The National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), has disclosed that over 240,000 adolescents live with the HIV virus in Nigeria and has expressed concern over the statistics.
The Director-general of NACA, Sani Aliyu, disclosed this at the Nigeria National HIV response event led by NACA, with support from the United Nations Children Funds (UNICEF), in collaboration with Population Council tagged “All-IN working with adolescents and young people to achieve 90:90:90 in Nigeria,” held in Abuja.
He said Nigeria ranked second among countries with the highest HIV prevalence among adolescents, in the world, but assured that NACA will ensure increase in the testing rate among young people by 2020.
According to Aliyu, “The burden with Nigeria is not preventing new infections, but enrolling and retaining young people in treatment fast enough, as the enthusiasm, idealism and fresh ideas of young people can introduce new solutions to the challenges.
“The Nigerian National HIV response led by NACA, with support from UNICEF in partnership with Population Council, has embarked on an adolescent participation initiative that will help to define a framework for engaging adolescents in the AIDS response specifically.
“The work stream on engaging adolescents recognises that adolescents and youths are critical in efforts to end the AIDS epidemic. By working together with them in AIDS response and across sectors, we can create a successful pathway to adulthood for young people.”
He urged the private sector to engage in and invest on Adolescents and Young Persons (AYPs) in HIV response, adding that “investing on this segment of the population shall translate into a democratic dividend.”
The Country Director, UNICEF, Mohammed Fall, for his part, lamented that Nigeria is a country where the speed of infection of HIV virus is increasing among youths.
He noted that the young people in Nigeria can be mobilised for social change with their energy and enthusiasm for change out of the public health arena.
Fall stated that “the most important aspect of our lives are being driven by the private sector, and I will like to use this opportunity to reiterate that UNICEF stand ready to spend something in partnership and show support to Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world in the fight against HIV.”