By: Mayen Etim
KADUNA, North-West, Nigeria – No fewer than two million Adolescents and Young People, (AYP) in Kaduna State are ignorant of their HIV status, according to a data from the state AIDS Control Agency.
Deputy Director, Prevention, KADSACA, Mrs Catherine Ayuba, who released the data to newsmen on Monday in Kaduna said, however, that the Agency had reached over 289, 853 AYPs from 2017 to date.
She added that of the total number of those reached by the Agency, 7, 327 tested HIV positive and were placed on treatment.
Ayuba stressed that the agency is still involved in massive campaign to encourage adolescents and young people access HIV testing and services.
Some of the AYPs in Kaduna, however, told Journalists that they had no time to subject themselves to any HIV test.
One of them, Kolawale Segunle, acknowledged that he did not know his HIV status, but argued that “there is no need because I am confident that I am negative.
Segunle said he would only go for HIV test if the service was brought to his door step, adding that for now, he has no time to go to hospital “just for HIV test.”
A young girl, Victoria Peter, also said she had never gone for HIV test and has no intention of doing so, arguing that “only the promiscuous ones go for testing and I am not one of them.”
For Patrick Ajayi, people are scared of going for HIV test because of the belief that a person would die early if the result turn out positive.
“I have never been tested and I do not think I will want to because I am confident I am negative, besides I do not want to die before my time.
“If I go for testing and it turned out positive, I will die of frustration,” Ajayi said.
Similarly, Ahmed Abdulsalam, who also never tested for HIV, said he avoided going to health centre for testing so as not be labeled as a HIV carrier.
“Once you are seen in HIV section in health facility, even if you are there for testing or to see someone, people who see you there will conclude that you are HIV positive.
“I don’t want that stigma on my life. Besides, it is only when you doubt yourself and experiencing some symptoms that you will go for test to be sure.
“I do not fall under that category; I live a careful life to avoid contacting the disease.
“There is also the issue of not trusting the integrity of service providers in health centres, who in the process of testing might infect you with the disease,” Abdulsalam added.
Ezra Akama, another youth said that the last time he was tested was in 2013 and had no reason to go for another test, as he is sure that his status is negative.
An expert, Dr Idris Baba, HIV/AIDS Specialist, UNICEF Kaduna, expressed concern over the nonchalant attitude of adolescents and youths in the state in knowing their HIV status.
He said that the attitude has led to prevalence of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases among AYPs in the state and across the country.
Baba described AYPs as persons between 10 and 24 years of age, characterised by rapid physical growth and development as well as sexual maturation.
According to him, youths and adolescents constitute 33 per cent of the population of the state and are most at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
“It is a period that can be marked by the need to try out new things such as sex, experiment with injectable drugs among other risk behaviours.
“As a result of engaging in these high risk behaviour, there has been an upsurge in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases among AYPs in Kaduna and the country at large.”
Baba noted that only a few youths knows their HIV status in the state and stressed the need for concerted efforts in proving sexual and reproductive health information and services targeting the AYPs.
According to him, HIV testing is important as it facilitates care and treatment for victims, and prevention for others in the risk group.
It would be recall that Kaduna State Government and UNICEF had in June 2017 launched HIV intervention plan, as part of efforts to address the prevalence of HIV among AYPs.
The intervention, aimed at curbing HIV prevalence among adolescents and young people, was targeted at seven Local Government Areas with high percentage of HIV cases, namely: Chikun, Lere, Kagarko, Birnin Gwari, Jema’a and Jaba.
Baba explained that the intervention plan was “to increase comprehensive HIV service delivery for AYPs living with HIV, increase condom use, HIV prevention, reproductive and sexual health education.
“The plan will among other things, use the youths as demand creators, counsellors and testers to reach out to huge number of AYPs living with HIV in the state and place them on treatment.
“The youths are not comfortable discussing HIV related issues with elderly people, they feel comfortable with their peers and open up more.
“Meaning that we will break more grounds when we engage the youths to sensitise their peers about the virus to increase demand for services.”