Vanguard (Lagos)

27 March 2008

Nigeria: 61 Percent of New HIV/Aids Infections Are Women-NACA

Lagos — The National Agency For The Control of AIDS (NACA) has revealed that an estimated sixty one percent of Nigerians that are newly infected with HIV/AIDS are women and young girls.

The Director General of NACA, Professor Babatunde Oshotimehin who gave the information in Abuja at a One-day workshop organised by the agency to strengthen its relationship with the National Council of Women Societies (NCWS), said the country stands the risk of losing an important part of her population to the scourge of HIV if the situation is not quickly addressed.

He said, "We have to appreciate why it is important for women to be in the fore front of the battle against the spread of HIV/AIDS. Today, Africa houses seventy percent of HIV/AIDS infections, with sixty-one percent of new infections in Nigeria being women and young girls.

"Today, the burden of the disease in terms of care and support of those living with the virus, is the responsibility of the women, across our continent. So when you look at the statistics and you look at how the disease affects our women, it is important that we put women at the centre of the control of this virus."

He called on women all over the country to take up the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS, while decrying the gender distance between men and women even though majority of the transmission of the HIV virus occur between men and women.

The NACA boss said women are getting more infected than men because of their inability to speak out against some of sexual practices that has put them in disadvantaged positions.

His words, "It is also important to note before we forget that most of the transmission of the virus occurs between women and men. We also appreciate that with the gender distance between our men and our women, it is difficult for our women to protect themselves or to ensure that they will not get infected."

"In our culture, it is hard for a wife to say no to our husband. We are talking here to women of substance who are enlightened. But when we go down to our homestead, where these women don't have the education you have, it becomes even more difficult to negotiate safe sex."

He added that the spread of the disease could be easily tamed if women are giving more right to negotiate sex with their partners.

The national president of NCWS Mrs. Ramatu Bala Usman in her remarks said the involvement of the women in the fight against HIV/AIDS would help reduce the spread of the disease.

She said, "It is in our collective interest to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS because we are the most infected and affected. We have about 250 groups that are affiliated to us and with all of them we will carry the campaign to the grassroots.

The Society is not just composed of educated elites but the also include the uneducated women in the rural areas. It is easier for us to penetrate the rural areas because we speak their language and they understand us more."

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