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Nigeria’s HIV prevalence has dropped from 4.6 per cent to 4.1 per cent with the number of infected people estimated at 3.1 million, disclosed yesterday in Abuja by the Minister of Health. Launching the 2010 HIV sero-prevalence sentinel survey among pregnant women, Chukwu said the reduction was made possible due to the effectiveness of various intervention strategies.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the minister recalled that the national survey conducted in 1991 put the prevalence at 1.8 per cent, adding that although over the years the prevalence rose to 4.5 per cent in 1995/1996 and 5.8 per cent in 2001, it had been declining since then. According to him, the government instituted three types of HIV and AIDS surveys nationwide including programme planning, monitoring and evaluation, for effectiveness.

These are “sero-prevalence sentinel survey conducted among the ante-natal clinic attendees, HIV and AIDS and reproductive health survey plus, as well as the integrated biological and behavioural surveillance survey. Chukwu stated that the prevalence of new infection among youths aged 15 to 24 had also declined from 6.0 per cent in 2001 to 4.1 per cent in 2010. He explained that the 2010 sentinel survey had confirmed that HIV remained a public health problem of enormous magnitude that should be given priority. “With the national prevalence of 4.1 per cent, the number of people infected is estimated at about 3.1 million. “This means that Nigeria still has the second largest number of people living with HIV and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa and the highest in West African sub-region. So what has changed!

“The overall national HIV prevalence for 2010 ante-natal clinic sentinel survey is 4.1 per cent with prevalence ranging from 1.0 per cent in Kebbi to 12.7 per cent in Benue. “Currently, about 1.5 million people, including 212,720 children, are still in need of treatment”, the minister remarked. He said that about 400,000 People Living with HIV and AIDS had access to free antiretroviral drugs, adding that the Federal Government was committed to improving HIV and AIDS services and other areas of health. With a larger percentage been young people has these really helped us? And with Benue that had a prevalence 10.9% moving to 12.7% are we really seeing a decrease at that level?

Earlier, the Director-General of National Agency for the Control of HIV and AIDS, Prof John Idoko, had said there was the need to identify groups that were still fuelling infection so as to channel better preventive strategies. He urged state governments to strive to further reduce the epidemic in their communities. Also speaking, the Country Representative of WHO, Dr David Okello, advised states with low prevalence reporting to work harder for lower figures.

So where should we be going from here? beyond the published figures to the work we are doing, how do we get this treatment to those that need it as well? How can our roles in this as young people be enhanced and used positively to our country’s advantange on the issues? We still have so much to do…