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NACA study links larger new HIV infections to ‘never married men, women’

By Hassan Zaggi

A study conducted by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), has indicated that the largest number of new HIV infections in the adult population is occurring among Never Married Females and Never Married Males.

At a media briefing in Abuja, Monday, the Director General of NACA,Dr. Gambo Aliyu, further disclosed that the next largest number of new infections occur among Female Sex Workers and Men who have Sex with Men.

These four population groups, he said, account for about 91% of all new infections among adults in Nigeria.

He, however, explained that the study gives the country new direction on innovative ways to focus its attention and utilise resources to make sure that HIV transmission is reduced to the barest minimum in the next two years maximum.

Dr. Aliyu further explained that: “To this end, the Mode of Transmission Study (MOT), which focuses on identifying the sources of new HIV infections in the country and was first conducted in 2009, was recently repeated using an updated model known as the Incidence Pattern Model.

“This was done to support efforts geared towards preventing new HIV infections using information that was accurate and clearly show where new infections are occurring and among which population group.

“It is noteworthy to state that data from the 2018 Nigeria AIDS Indicator Impact Survey (NAIIS) supplied most of the information on population size and characteristics used for the study.

“The Key population (KP) size, prevalence rate for Key Populations and the number of new infections by State spread were estimated from the recent KP study.”

He noted that: “Key populations which represent less than 2% of the total population account for about 11% of new infections.

“Child infections due to mother-to-child transmission represent the second- largest source of new infection accounting for 22% of all new infections. In many states, child infections account for an even larger proportion, up to 50%.”

According to him, the findings of the study will further help the NACA and partners redirect resources for maximum yields as “we look forward to attaining epidemic control with more targeted interventions.”

Efforts, he said,  will be made to target the never married population which is the largest source of new infections and are mostly between the ages of 17 to 34 for females and 19-31 for men.

“Special efforts are needed to be made to reach this population in schools, workplaces, gathering spots and through social media.

“The new infections through newborns due to low coverage of PMTCT. Efforts will be targeted at encouraging women to attend ANC especially in high prevalence states.

“Increased efforts especially for the highest risk FSW and MSM which has shown that even though the population is small, prevalence remains high among sex workers and MSM in spite of high levels of reported condom use.”

Speaking further on how his agency would work towards reducing infection in young people and also reduce child infection through mother-to-child transmission, the NACA DG said: “The younger generation who are never married, are not using prevention. They don’t listen or want to have anything to do with HIV services. If we can reach them and connect them, we can come closer to reducing the pandemic. The younger people living with the virus need to be reached with services to curtail transmission among them and newborn.

“To reduce child infections due to mother-to-child transmission, we must go beyond the hospital and go to the communities to deliver services.

“We are working at hospitals and community level. They now have more access. Pregnant women who don’t go for antenatal service are now reached at the comfort of their homes,” he said.

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