The National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) has advised Nigerians especially young people to seize the opportunity of the Valentine Day to know their HIV status.
Director General of the agency, Dr. Gambo Aliyu gave the advice in his message to mark this year’s Valentine Day.
He said: “It is important that all Nigerians know their HIV status, as it marks the entry point to prevention, treatment and care of HIV/AIDS. A young person not tested may not have the opportunity to enjoy future Valentine’s Days if he or she is diagnosed late or presents with terminal complications related to HIV infection and AIDS.”
Dr Aliyu said that the Valentine period which is particularly noted for young people expressing their love for one another could lead to impulsive decisions such as unprotected sex resulting in unplanned pregnancies, and an increased risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS.
He urged Nigerians especially the youth, to express love within the context of caring deeply for their loved ones and to avoid risky behaviors that could make them vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and other STDs.
He said that the first sexual contact among youths in Nigeria began at less than 15 years for 15% of Nigeria’s youth. “It is gathered that based on the NAIIS draft report, HIV Prevalence among sampled number of youths is 0.5% which recorded highest among females between age 15-24 years at 0.8% while males of the same age bracket stood at 0.2%.”
According to him, this, coupled with the practice of having multiple sexual partners increases HIV vulnerability among the youth population alongside the very low HIV testing rates.
While saying that only 17% of young people know their HIV status, the DG stated that it was important to reduce the worrying trend among Nigerian youths by encouraging faithful relationships for those who could not abstain from sex, and the use of barrier protection such as condoms, which prevent Sexually Transmitted Diseases including HIV and unwanted pregnancies.