09 Nov
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Beyond World AIDS Day, Continuing the Work to End HIV in Nigeria

While scientific advances have been made in HIV treatment and laws exist to protect people living with HIV, the work is not over. Worldwide, a large proportion of all new HIV infections occur in people under age 25. In Africa, the burden of HIV among youth is high. Despite this, many young people in Nigeria do not know the facts about how to protect themselves, and both stigma and discrimination remain a reality for people—particularly young people—living with the condition.

Beyond World AIDS Day, we must work together for an AIDS-free generation in Nigeria.

Globally, there are currently an estimated 36.9 million people living with HIV. Nearly three decades after the virus was identified, there is still no cure and it continues to spread rapidly in many places across the globe. Unfortunately, information gaps remain between young people, health systems, parents, and the community in many developing regions of the world.

Interventions for promoting development and reproductive health for young people and women must be implemented by governments and other critical community stakeholders. Otherwise, it will be difficult to scale up social change for youth and women in Africa anytime soon.

The stigma of being seen as promiscuous when infected contributes to the high level of HIV stigma among youth in my country. Too often, people living with HIV are blamed and thought to have had multiple sex partners, and they’re treated as if they deserve what happened to them.

The launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and a change of government in Nigeria provide a unique opportunity to engage new stakeholders on issues relating to health, HIV discrimination, and youth development. Hence, ahead of the 21st International AIDS Conference in July 2016, organizations like the Youth Spotlight Initiative are leading the way. Through their youth forum and community engagement strategies, they are calling for greater integration of sexual and reproductive health and HIV services in Nigeria.

There is a critical need for the present Nigerian administration and related stakeholders to recognize the right of marginalized and undeserved groups, including young people, to actively participate as partners in the design of policies that affect their health and lives.

The launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and a change of government in Nigeria provide a unique opportunity to engage new stakeholders on issues relating to health, HIV discrimination, and youth development. Hence, ahead of the 21st International AIDS Conference in July 2016, organizations like the Women Health and Action Research Centreare leading the way. Through their youth forum and community engagement strategies, they are calling for greater integration of sexual and reproductive health and HIV services in Nigeria.

It will take a concerted effort to provide our nation’s young people with the tools and resources they need to have safe sex, get tested, and protect themselves from HIV infection. If we can do this, we can make the goal of an HIV-free generation a reality.

This post was written by Isaac Ejakhegbe and First appeared on Women Deliver

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