Stakeholders raise alarm over high HIV infection rate in tertiary institutions

STAKEHOLDERS in the fight against Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) have raised alarm over what they described as an alarming rate of infection in tertiary institutions across the country.

The stakeholders, led by Education as a Vaccine against AIDS (EVA), a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), decried the increasing rate of HIV infections and said if nothing was done urgently, the situation could turn into a national emergency.

A pilot study conducted recently by EVA showed that HIV prevalent rate is as high as 20 per cent amongst young girls in tertiary institutions in some states. The survey noted that lack of sexual health information and services make young people vulnerable to Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancy.

Facilitator of EVA, Fadekemi Agarau, noted that emphasis has been laid on educating the young people at the secondary level but not enough effort is being made to the vulnerable group at the tertiary level. She stressed “the need to expand young people’s access to HIV information and counseling especially in our higher institutions of learning.”

Speaking at the 10th anniversary celebration of EVA held recently in Abuja, Agarau lamented that, “the rate of risky behaviours among students who are integral to the country’s social, political and economic development is high and if they are getting infected increasingly who is then addressing the problems.

“A lot of intervention targeting young people are not basically taken to the higher institutions but the truth is that they are having more sex since they feel they have more freedoms after having passed through the secondary schools,” the executive Director of EVA said.

She also revealed that in a survey of four schools made up of universities, polytechnics and colleges of education, girls were undertaken by her organisation and it was found out that majority of the young girls feel that they are not at risk since they usually have single sexual partners and do not use protection since they trust their partners.

But surprisingly the males in the study were more realistic confessing that they have multiple sexual partners without using condoms.

Earlier studies conducted in 2007 on the perception among university students in Osun State showed that 40 per cent of the respondents reported engaging in unprotected sex in the month prior to the survey. Only 15 per cent of the students surveyed perceived themselves to be at moderate to-high risk of infection. Health investigators categorised seven per cent of students surveyed as having a high risk of HIV infection and a mere 23 per cent as having a low risk of contracting the virus.

Agarua urged government to implement more sexual health oriented programmes aimed at changing attitudes.

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