HIV Awareness and Nigeria’s Irresponsibility to the LGBTIQ Community

HIV Awareness and Nigeria’s Irresponsibility to the LGBTIQ Community

According to Dr. Sani Aliyu of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), 900,000 Nigerians are on HIV treatment, with a majority of the funding for these treatments coming from USAID.

Now, let me walk us through some facts. South Africa has the largest antiretroviral treatment (ART) programme globally, and these efforts have been largely financed by its own domestic resources. The country now invests more than $1.5 billion annually to run its HIV and AIDS programmes, so it’s government-driven. In Nigeria however, the Giant of Africa herself with a HIV prevalence rate among adults ages 15-49 being 3.17 percent and with the second-largest number of people living with HIV, we are vastly donor-dependent. Most, if not all, of our interventions and resources are from funders and donors, a dependency that is constantly at risk. Recently, information reveals that significant global support for HIV/AIDs programmes in Nigeria has been withdrawn.

The question is what becomes the fate of 3.4 million Nigerians living with the ailment in a country where there is no real political will, no real intervention spearheaded by the Federal Government and the violence against the LGBTIQ community, the minority that most needs these programs, is frequent? The Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act criminalizes all forms of same-sex unions and same-sex marriage throughout the country, a law that expressly put every same-sex identifying Nigerian into a category not worth any regard, including health-wise. To this end, human life is politicized, neglecting that health is a human right that must be upheld, irrespective of our political affiliations, race, sexual orientation, religious inclination, gender and status.

This constant disregard for and lack of any real commitment to the strengthening of our HIV/AIDS programmes for the benefit of EVERY Nigerian begs the question whether Nigeria is even ready to join the global community as it works tirelessly to achieve the 90-90-90 goal, an ambitious treatment target aimed at helping to end the AIDS epidemic, where 90% of people living with HIV are diagnosed by 2020, 90% of diagnosed people are placed on antiretroviral treatment by 2020, and 90% of people in treatment are with fully suppressed viral load by 2020. With Nigeria’s poor attitude to the HIV/AIDS campaign, do we really see ourselves joining the rest of the world to achieve this goal?

December 1st was World AIDS Day, and on that day every year, we remember the lives lost to the AIDS epidemic and the voices of those who stood against it. With advances in biomedicine and mobilized communities, we are closer to achieving global targets in epidemic control than ever before. However, until we as a nation are able to eliminate structural barriers and provide easy access to life-saving medicines, social services, and basic care for those who need it, most especially the Key Affected Populations/Most At Risk Persons, we will not see an end to this epidemic in Nigeria.

This needs to change. We need to do better. We must endeavour to do a better job of empowering, educating and supporting ourselves and each other in our fight against HIV/AIDS. This is a campaign for everyone and every Nigerian.

Written by Ekene Odigwe

Ekene Odigwe is a multiple award-winning Nigerian talk show host, a radio, social media and TV content developer. He is also a Human Rights & HIV Advocate and a 2016 BAF Media Justice fellow.

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  1. Gad
    December 20, 07:51 Reply

    Efforts should always be made against muddling up Hiv and aids issues with that of LGBTQ as if they are twins.
    As much as I know, no one has been barred from receiving care based on their sexuality. Maybe I don’t know much. Just maybe.
    I think there should be more push on the government to show stronger commitments towards providing ARVs for its infected citizens but while on it, LGBTQ issues should be left out of it. If you are tackling Hiv issues do it squarely and when you want to deal with LGBTQ rights devote all energy towards it.

    • Francis
      December 24, 07:49 Reply

      HIV-AIDS care and prevention doesn’t end at providing ARVs. How comfortable are LGBTs discussing their peculiar health issues with health personnel that would rather sit and preach instead of offering correct help as stipulated in the guidelines?

  2. DeadlyDarius
    December 20, 13:30 Reply

    First off, I didn’t see where the article made mention of people being refused care based on sexuality. The grouse here is the availability of the care in the first place.

    The article also correctly states that the segments of the population at risk should especially be reached. That isn’t ‘muddling’ up: its basic epidemiology.

    And this is an LGBTQ website…what is wrong in discussing the rights in any combination with any other related societal ill? In short, who appointed you to decide which topics should or should not be mentioned in a single speech?

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