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Young People and HIV/AIDS in Nigeria: The Reality Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by KINGSLEY, Nigeria Feb 8, 2005
Health   Opinions
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If there is a way to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, there must be focus on young people as more than half of the newly infected are between 15 and 29 years old. According to Carol Bellamy, UNICEF’s Executive Director, “global success in combating HIV/AIDS must be measured by its impact on children and young people…we cannot let another generation be devastated by AIDS.” Peter Piot, the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS went on further to say that, “according special priority to young people will change the future course of the HIV epidemic…the challenge is to promote effective programmes engaged to HIV/AIDS in every country”.

Nigeria in line with the Global Response to the fight HIV/AIDS through the Presidential AIDS Council PAC, and National Action Committee on AIDS, NACA (2001) has instituted “a multisectoral national strategy and financing plans to combating HIV/AIDS.” Over the years, young people were not an explicit part of the strategy and financing plans, as there has never been a strong or high level of political commitment for these strategy and plans.

The Nigerian government and its agencies have put up policies regarding HIV/AIDS prevention, care, support and rights. But such policies as the National Policy on HIV/AIDS of 2003 gave little concern to youths without implementation, and the National Youth Agenda of 2004 intentionally excluded Sexual Reproductive Health services (SRH) and HIV/AIDS issues. But youths maintain that SRH and HIV/AIDS should form a component of the agenda.

Young people, especially those living with HIV/AIDS, are not involved in the development process of such government polices. No wonder there are no concrete and executable specifications within the range of government programmes and services focused on HIV/AIDS prevention, care and support of young people. Programmes on HIV prevention, Sexual Reproductive Health services, Voluntary Counselling and Testing, diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections are not widely spread across the geo-political areas and states--especially the Southeast, South and Northwest. Where they exist, they are pseudo-functional.

Due to these pitfalls in government activities, the transmission of HIV/AIDS increases and spreads. The issues and concerns of young people are not enshrined on government policies and where they exist are not implemented and do not promote the rights of those living with HIV/AIDS. Youth involvement, representation and participation are near zero, and this imbalance is a result of one-sided sponsorship by the UN System and Development partners. See the list of the United Nations Population Fund-supported youths at the 4th National conference on HIV/AIDS in 2004; out of 2000 youth participants at the conference, only 52 were HIV-positive.

Irrespective of the fact that there is little or no focus on young people, especially those living with HIV/AIDS, youth participation at the national conference and activities in HIV prevention are encouraging. It is suggested that youth should be maximally involved with funding priorities for young people and a formal national scholarship mechanism by the UN System and Development partners for future conferences and training.

Preventive Health services including HIV Prevention have not been completely and effectively streamlined into school curriculum. Since 2002, UNICEF and the National Youths Services Corps (NYSC) have been using Peer Education in schools in its Reproductive Health HIV AIDS prevention project. The NGOs are also working on that at the secondary and tertiary levels of education. The British Council, NACA and some Development partners have come up with a policy of HIV/AIDS education in primary schools under the Family Life Education of the Universal Basic Education, UBE. The World Bank has also integrated the HIV/AIDS prevention (Family Life Education) program into the existing curriculum in schools. Not much attention is given to educating out-of-school youths on HIV/AIDS prevention because they are considered “hard to reach”--disabled or poor.

It has been a problem to mainstream HIV prevention methods into the education sector. Out-of-school young people and youth organizations are not able to assess funds for HIV education in and out of school. This is due to strong official bottlenecks and demand for registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in order to get funds. As most youth organizations are rurally or locally based, it is advisable to wave CAC registration; rather, they should register with their local and state authorities. Notwithstanding many youth organisations, NGOs have achieved success through HIV education projects at the grassroots level. Since 2002, the UNICEF and NYSC Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS prevention project has taken HIV education to the doorsteps of over 6 million adolescents and youths across 36 states.

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Writer Profile

There is an awful lot of things to be done and different ways to do them...but how can all these be done without logical thought...That's PLANNING.

Kingsley Onyekwere Essomeonu, in his opinion sees planning as a MUST to success.

Kingsley had experience in journalism, having studied mass comunication. A PGD in Journalism from the International Institute of journalism, IIJ, and currently studying for his Masters in Community Development and Social Welfare. He had editorial experience at Imo Broadcasting Corporation, Owerri (1998-99) during his internship. He was the campus and departmental editor of FORUM newspaper during his undergraduate days, and was the editor of KADCORPS Magazine during his National Youths service (NYSC) in Kaduna State.

A UNICEF-trained expert on reproductive health & HIV/AIDS prevention. A UNDP/UNEAD-trained expert in Conflict Resolution & Management. He is the co-ordinator of Society for Adolecents & Youth Health International and SAYHI Nigeria.

His ongoing project is YOUNGIES which focuses on young people aged 15-29 in and out of school in the southeastern states of Nigeria.

He needs the submissions of TIG members to this piece.

E –mail okinx2000@yahoo.com
Phone - 234-(0) 803-669-5163

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