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HIV/ AIDS education in rural Nigeria Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Olumese Everistus, Nigeria Feb 26, 2009
HIV/AIDS , Health , Education   Opinions


HIV/ AIDS education in rural Nigeria I had a glimpse into the knowledge of HIV possessed by rural Nigerians recently during a training on Life Building Skills organized by my organization for our volunteers.

Not only did they not know what the acronym HIV/AIDS means but they believed AIDS actually means "American Invention to Discourage Sex". This situation I don't need to tell you was quite embarrassing. This begs the question: how are the many millions of dollars being pumped by donor agencies into Nigeria being used? Are we only reporting successes based on urban figures? What are donor and local agencies doing for and with the youths in rural Nigeria?

Akoko Edo Local Government Area is the largest and oldest in Nigeria. The population is largely agrarian and a handful processes solid minerals. Basic infrastructure like roads, good schools, health centers, water and drainage is lacking. Ninety percent of the people of this region are impoverished and living beyond the poverty line. And yet, successive government has done nothing to ameliorate the plight of the people.

Akoko Edo will seem to outsider as a forgotten and relegated mass of undulating area. Vices like drug abuse, sexual abuse and laziness are rampant. Nevertheless, these people have an indomitable and participatory spirit. This situation is not peculiar to Akoko Edo alone but is to be found in most rural parts of Nigeria. The Reproductive Health situation in Akoko Edo is appalling. 85% of young women between the ages of 12 to 24 years have had a child out of wedlock. About 50% has at one time or another procured an illegal abortion. The school-dropout rate is one of the highest in Nigeria and about 40% of the young men have suffered from an STI.

Rural Nigeria has always suffered from neglect and a sense of abandonment. The recent call for the scrapping of the third tier of government - the Local Government - stems from their failure to impact on the lives of their constituents. We have consistently seen this neglect even in HIV programming. People continue to get infected and they continue to die in ignorance in the rural area.

During this training I referred to above, a time came when we mentioned male condom. Surprisingly, they have heard but never seen a condom. We had men and women that are married and sexually active youths that have never seen a male condom talk less of a female condom. The question is how do these sexually active individuals protect themselves from HIV. This biggest illusion and fallacy is that they don't believe HIV actually exist or in their communities. I believe this may be what obtains in other rural parts of Nigeria. The rate of stigma and discrimination is still very high.

This situation demands urgent attention. Akoko Edo Diocesan Development Services (ADDS) is the only CSO in this big Local Government Area and it was just formed in 2008. Their capacity has been built and is capable of carrying out effective HIV intervention. But compared to the needs, what they can do is meager. What is needed is an urgent and massive programs deployment in rural Nigeria. Community Based organization should be identified and empowered to carry out HIV intervention. Youth-led organizations and faith based organization should be empowered to lead the campaign in rural Nigeria.

Donor agencies and donors should concentrate their effort henceforth in rural Nigeria. 70% of people in Nigeria live in rural Nigeria but it is only about 15% of HIV intervention that gets to the grassroots. Without empowerment HIV will continue to run like wild fire in the villages of Nigeria and we will continue to report successes when people keep dying of ignorance in the rural areas.

The future of Nigeria depends on the rural communities. Donors and Funders, international and local NGOs, government and other CSOs should not neglect rural Nigeria. They should empower the people with information about STIs, HIV/AIDS, stigma and discrimination, Reproductive Health and Rights, Human Rights, etc. Services like Voluntary Counseling and Testing, Career counseling, youth centers, STI and Contraceptive clinics etc should be established. This will help preserve the next generation of farmers, engineers, scientists, doctors, teachers, etc from extinction.



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