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900,000 people living with HIV/AIDs in Nigeria not traceable ― Civil Society group

A group, Civil Society for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (CiSHAN), on Tuesday lamented that about 900,000 persons living with HIV/AIDS in the country are not traceable, raising fears of more infections.

Executive Secretary of CISHAN, Mr Walter Ugwocha, said this at a virtual media roundtable in Abuja to flag off the commencement of the national campaign for HIV self-testing in the six geopolitical zones of the country.

Ugwuocha also said based on the 2018 Nigeria AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey, Nigeria was lagging behind in achieving the 1st 95 of the 95-95-95 target by 2030.

He added that the campaign was focused on creating awareness and demand for HIV self-testing, identification and early treatment of newly diagnosed HIV positive individuals.

Another aim he said, was also geared towards the mandate of reaching about 10 million people with HIV self-testing kits by the end of 2020.

The Group therefore urged federal, state governments, relevant agencies and development partners to as a matter of urgency disseminate HIV self-testing guidelines and increase their level of support by procuring the HIV self-testing kits and making it available at public settings and at communities to boost access to HIV testing.

“Out of the 1.9 million people living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, about 900,000 are yet to show up for treatment and are currently unaccounted for.

“We will be going to a state in each of the geo-political zones; Kogi, Delta, Gombe, Kaduna, Abia and Lagos, to help close the existing HIV testing gap.

“The COVID-19 lockdown significantly decreased access of community members general, key, and vulnerable population to HIV testing.

“Prior to the lockdown, there had been challenges with thinking around how to address the gap with populations access to HIV testing and identifying the unreached HIV positive population”, the Group stated.

Nigeria has the second largest HIV epidemic in the world.1 Although HIV prevalence among adults is much less (1.3%) than other sub-Saharan African countries such as South Africa (19%) and Zambia (11.5%), the size of Nigeria’s population means 1.8 million people were living with HIV in 2019.2 Recent drops in prevalence estimates for the country has been attributed to better surveillance.3

Nevertheless, UNAIDS estimates that around two-thirds of new HIV infections in West and Central Africa in 2019 occur in Nigeria. Together with South Africa and Uganda, the country accounts for around half of all new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa every year.4 This is despite achieving a 13% reduction in new infections between 2010 and 2019.5

Unprotected heterosexual sex accounts for 80% of new HIV infections in Nigeria, with the majority of remaining HIV infections occurring in key affected populations such as sex workers.

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