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HIV/AIDS Prevention: NGOs urge FG to leverage pop culture to reach youths

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A coalition of NGOS on Monday urged the Federal Government to utilise diverse popular culture (pop culture) as avenues to create awareness and sensitise youths on HIV/AIDS prevention.

The NGOs made the call during an online discussion on the role of media in HIV prevention advocacy’’, organised by the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC) in collaboration with Journalists Against AIDS Nigeria (JAAIDS).

It had its theme as : “Advocating for Supportive Policy and Programme for Effective HIV Prevention Interventions”.

According to the NGOs, certain social, economic, political and health challenges in the country will be tackled when government takes advantage of the active involvement of young persons in present-day pop culture.

They said that such pop culture includes the BBNaija show as well as Lagos, Calabar and street carnivals or festivals.

Mr Michael Akanji, Key Population Advisor, Nigerian Office of Heartland Alliance International, said that pop culture, including the BBNaija show , were popularly accepted by the youths who are more at risk of being infected with HIV.

He said that the HIV prevalence among adolescents and young people in Nigeria was estimated to be 3.5 per cent, which is the highest among countries in West and Central Africa.

“Nigeria’s HIV prevalence is more among the young population such as the female sex workers, men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs, most of whom have not been reached.

“Out of the five prevention pillars of HIV, Nigeria picked four which include prevention among young persons, key population, provision of condoms and Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).

“But not much has been done in these areas.

“Instead of trying to ban some of the pop culture platforms, government should rather, see how the National Orientation Agency could harness the medium to reach and educate the youth on sexual reproductive health and HIV prevention tools such as PrEP.

“Government can get involved in such shows by providing themes for each seasons to tackle certain social issues in the society and the programme would revolve around that theme,’’ he said.

Akanji urged the government to focus and invest more on HIV prevention mechanism rather than HIV treatment to avoid healthcare providers getting overwhelmed.

Also speaking, Ms Olayide Akanni, Executive Director, JAAIDS, cited data released by the United Nations Programme on HIV/ AIDS (UNAIDS) in 2018.

She said that the data indicated that about 160 young women between the ages of 15–24 years become infected with HIV everyday in the West and Central African region.

“This is significantly higher among the key population: 27.4 per cent for brothel-based female sex workers, 21.7 per cent for non-brothel-based female sex workers,17.2 per cent for men who have sex with men.

“And 10.4 per cent for people who inject drugs.

“We need to harp more on prevention interventions. This area is still being underfunded as more emphasis has been laid on treatment over the years.

“Another challenge with HIV prevention in Nigeria is the poor awareness and poor national HIV testing coverage.

“I believe that if the key population can be reached via pop culture, HIV new infections will reduce,’’ she said.

In her remarks, Ms Josephine Aseme, AVAC representative for Nigeria 2020, noted that full adoption of prevention mechanism would be better as it is cost effective and people would be safe from contracting the virus.

“If certain preventive mechanism such as Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is taken effectively by people at risk, it reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99 per cent and 74 per cent among people who inject drugs.’’

Aseme said that the media had a role to play in HIV/AIDS prevention advocacy adding that the media have influence on the youths who are majorly at risk of contracting the virus.


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