22 December 2011

Nigeria: 'HIV Rate Amongst Gays Rising'

The prevalence of HIV among men who sleep with men (MSM) in Nigeria has increased to 17.2% last year, up from 13.5% in 2007, according to a 2010 behavioural surveillance of groups thought to be at high risk of HIV/AIDS.

The survey also indicated that one in two MSMs has a female sex partner and that consistent use of condom with both male and female partners was low.

Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said the bridge between MSMs, many of whom identified themselves as bisexual in the survey, and female partners posed "a serious challenge to the national response to HIV epidemic" currently standing at 4.1% national prevalence.

"If care is not taken, this behaviour may erode the gains we have made in the national response to HIV/AIDS," the minister, represented by Dr Tolu Fakeye, director for health planning, research and statistics at the ministry, said at the launch of the report in Abuja.

The survey studied some 14,987 people classified in high-risk groups--including female sex workers, men who have sex with men, police and armed forces personnel, transport workers and injecting drug users. This group represents 1% of population but accounts for 38% of new HIV infections.

It found HIV prevalence among brothel-based female workers fell from 37.4% in 2007 to 27.4% in 2010. A similar decline was also recorded for female sex workers not based in brothels, 21% at present, down from 30% in 2007.

A prevalence of 4.2% was recorded among injecting drug users, while 2.4% was recorded among transport workers.

The survey also found declining prevalence of HIV among security personnel--2.6% among police officers and 2.5% in the armed forces.

Brigadier-General Ekanem, former head of armed forces HIV prevention response, said the reduction came from communicating to the military personnel the risk of HIV from easy sexual contact.

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