As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark this year’s Valentine’s Day on February 14, the Director General, of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, NACA, Dr. Gambo Aliyu, has called on all Nigerians, especially young people, to take advantage of the spirit of love and togetherness that the day signifies, to know their HIV status.
Speaking in Abuja, the D-G emphasised that the importance of all Nigerians knowing their HIV status which he said marks the entry point to the prevention, treatment, and care of HIV/AIDS.
He said that it was expedient for all Nigerians, especially the youths to express love within the context of caring deeply for their loved ones with the intention of protecting them from all forms of harm and avoiding risk factors that will make them vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and other STIs.
“This occasion though significant in the lives of people globally, brings a lot of cause to worry about, as the expression of love, especially among adolescents, youths and other diverse populations most often falls out of context.
“This period is observed to witness a high rate of indiscriminate sexual activities and other amoral behaviours that lead to uninformed decisions among many. This development most often than not exposes many people to a high risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Infections.
“As we express love for our partners during this Valentine’s Day, remember to love wisely. As members of a wider society your health and productivity count to your nuclear and extended families and the entire country.
“Nigeria stands to benefit from the pool of your contributions. So I urge you to desist from practices that might expose you to risks of contracting HIV/AIDS and/or other sexually transmitted diseases as we commemorate these special days. Once again I urge you to love wisely, share love, and not the virus”.
Further, the NACA boss said, “It is essential to reduce the trend of new HIV infection in Nigerian youths through preaching abstinence, and for those who cannot abstain, to use condoms which prevent STIs including HIV and unwanted pregnancies.
“It has become important to ensure condom option is made available as a preventive measure to youths and people of reproductive age who cannot abstain from sex, with new HIV infections highest among young people aged 15-24 years and with the national data suggesting that about 4.2 percent of young people (ages 15-24) are living with HIV.”
In his admonition, the DG remarked, “As we express love on this day, remember to love wisely. As members of the wider society, your health and productivity are vital to the future of our country. So, I urge you to avoid risky behaviours as we commemorate Valentine’s Day. Love Wisely, Share Love not HIV”.
In 2021, 1.9 million people in Nigeria were living with HIV, and women were the most affected group according to UN statistics.
According to the National AIDS and STDs Control Programme, NASCP, 90 per cent of Nigerians who are HIV positive know their status, 98 per cent of those who know their status are on HIV treatment and 95 per cent of those on treatment have attained viral suppression.
As of the end of September 2022, over 1.6 million persons living with HIV in Nigeria were on treatment, compared to 838,020 persons in 2017. The number of HIV treatment sites has increased from 251 in 2007 to 2,262 in 2020, according to NACA.