Experts reviewing Nigeria’s new HIV/AIDS prevalence rate have said it called for studies to actually ascertain the country’s HIV incidence rate in a bid to know if the various strategies put in place by government was actually reducing new cases of HIV, and to know if the virus is being controlled.
In an overview of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa and Nigeria at a training workshop organised by New HIV Vaccine and Microbicide Advocacy Society (NHVMAS) in Sagamu, Dr Morenike Ukpong, said the problem of HIV was better reflected by an incidence study.
According to her, Nigeria’s HIV prevalence rate among pregnant women attending antenatal care which dropped to 4.1 per cent was a reflection of all HIV/AIDS new and old cases in the population at a given time.
Dr Ukpong, who stated that only an incidence survey would give an indication of the rate at which new HIV cases occurred in a specified population, declared, “when a prevalence rate drops like we saw in the Nigeria’s HIV case in barely two years, what it portend is that actually more people with HIV had died.”
According to her, it was a wrong notion to believe that any drop in HIV prevalence meant incidence of new HIV cases were reducing.
Dr Ukpong, who remarked that increasing cases of anal sex among youths and homosexualilty, as well as intravenous drug users in the country needed to be taken into consideration, said that the lack of appropriate data on the incidence of HIV would continue to be a challenge in ensuring a control of the virus.
Professor Olusola Olatunji, Head of Haematology and Blood Transfusion, Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Sagamu, Ogun State said, data on HIV incidence from some health facilities indicated that new cases of HIV might be on the rise.
Professor Olatunji said the number of HIV orphans were likely to also increase because the fear of the disease was on the decline and more people now have access to ARVs.
He decried the dearth of data for adequate planning of HIV interventions, and called for a more responsive attitude by the government. According to him, tackling the AIDS crisis was a long term task that required sustained effort and planning.
Meanwhile, Professor Kayode Dada, Director Centre for Research in Reproductive Health, Sagamu, Ogun State reiterated the need for more emphasis to be placed on HIV tests because HIV makes people more prone to cervical cancer.
According to him, “public awareness on HIV testing is not enough. Every opportunity must be maximised to get people tested. The media should support the campaign to get people tested for HIV just like any other laboratory test.