25 January 2013

Nigeria: Spread of HIV/Aids Scourge in Edo Worries Expert

The Executive Director, Centre for Population and Environmental Development, University of Benin, Professor Andrew Onokerhoraye, has expressed fear on Nigeria's future over the spread of Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) among young people.

He spoke Wednesday on the paper entitled: "Young People at Risk of HIV/AIDS in Edo State: What should we do?" at a presentation of the African Journal Reproductive Health (AJRH) published by the Women's Health and Action Research Centre (WHARC) held in Benin City.

Onokerhoraye, who called on the Federal Government to increase funds which it budgeted to control the dreaded disease across the country in order to increase the awareness programmes among the youths, pointed out that the recent increase from N2 billion to N5 billion as fund meant for intervention measure against HIV/AIDS was not enough.

Onokerhoraye, a former Vice-Chancellor of University of Benin (UNIBEN) also said that even the insignificant fund was difficult to access for programmes.

He added that the lack of political will by appropriate government ministries to mobilize programmes in schools and out of schools in different parts of the country is a major challenge hampering the awareness campaign.

He said the data from the National HIV/AIDS reveals that among the sexually active of 15 to 19 years old, only 34.4 per cent used condoms at their most recent sexual encounter.

"Another survey found that by the age of 13, over a quarter of a sample of secondary school students in some parts of the country have had sexual intercourse.

"Evidence of unmet need is reflected in research that confirms that some young people have a poor understanding of the reproductive process, others harbour misconceptions. Research in Nigeria also confirms that many young persons participate in risky sexual activities, including early debut in sexual activities, sex with many partners, low and inconsistent use of condoms."

The emeritus professor said in some localities in Nigeria girls marry relatively young often to much older men, saying that "it has been found that those who are married at younger age have less knowledge about HIV/AIDS and are more likely to believe they have low risk for becoming infected with HIV."

Continued Onokerhoraye: "The large population of young people coupled with the lack of adequate funds and political will have contributed to the neglect of rural communities in sex education programmes in different parts of Nigeria."

Consequently, he said youth in rural areas are particularly disadvantaged since educational and prevention programmes do not reach them, therefore leaving them more vulnerable to infection than their urban peers.

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