THIS World AIDS Day, charity acet UK throws a spotlight on the inequalities that are a core reason why the HIV pandemic continues to have such a devasting impact on communities in Nigeria.
acet UK CEO, Catherine Healey explained:
“Nigeria has the highest number of annual HIV infections among children in the world – shockingly, this is 14% of the global total. Late diagnosis is a significant issue as many people are only finding out they have HIV when it has already progressed to AIDS, so HIV testing programs are so important. The progress in preventing mother-to-child transmission of the virus has also been much slower in Nigeria than in other sub-Saharan African countries.
“Traditions such as child marriage fuel inequality which perpetuates the HIV pandemic. 44% of Nigerian girls are married before they are 18 – these girls are more likely to drop out of school, have children of their own at a young age, experience violence in the home, and have poorer health outcomes.”
With acet UK’s support, ACET Nigeria’s HIV prevention programmes are providing a strong focus on tackling inequalities faced by the underserved, deprived communities it works with. These inequalities are key drivers of HIV transmission. This includes gender inequality but also inequalities in accessing education, testing, counselling, and relevant medical services.
ACET Nigeria is reaching vast numbers of vulnerable people not only with transformative community education programmes that bust myths about HIV transmission, and tackle stigma and discrimination, but also with HIV testing, counselling and support in accessing life-saving antiretroviral treatment. 6,000 people will be reached across 5 states next year, including 700 vulnerable pregnant women – who often struggle to access the medical care they need.
The ACET Nigeria team is working hard to create a more gender-equal society by educating children and adults about the huge potential of both girls and boys, addressing harmful gender norms such as child marriage, and raising up male and female ambassadors to champion girls and women.
Following sessions at an ACET Nigeria Children’s Club where relationship education is taught, Obiajulu, an 11-year-old boy said:
“I learnt that boys and girls are equal. We have also started cooking yummy foods together. I didn’t know that boys can cook food too because I only saw mums cooking in my community.”
ACET Nigeria also provides Esteem Clubs for teenagers, so they continue to receive strong messages about equality there. Jamilah, 15 said:
“Esteem Clubs in our school are the best clubs because they are the only clubs that address issues of relationships and sex, self-esteem, and puberty. These are issues that affect me and my friends. If we did not have this guidance, we could be victims of early marriage and pregnancy like many others in my community. Lots of girls drop out of school, or contract HIV or STIs which prevents them from achieving their dreams.”
With the United Nations 2030 goal of ending AIDS as a global health threat fast approaching, there needs to be a renewed global effort to tackle equalities.
acet UK is fundraising this week for this HIV prevention work in Nigeria. Donations given through the Big Give Christmas Challenge will be doubled until midday on Tuesday 6th December. Please visit: http://bit.ly/BG2022acetUK to take part.