UNICEF bemoans AIDS prevalence in Nigeria

AIDSHIV•Tasks media on child mortality, malnutrition

The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), at the weekend, raised concerns over the high number of adolescents infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) in the country.

Speaking in Lagos at the end of a two-week national mentorship and leadership training programme for victims in Nigeria (ALHIV), the officer in charge of Adolescent HIV Response, UNICEF Nigeria, Dr. Victoria Isiramen, reiterated that about 196,000 adolescents, aged 10-19, were living with the dreaded disease.

She noted that according to the 2014 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey, 11,000 died of AIDS- related cases in 2013 out of the estimated adolescent population of 38,882,000 and another estimated 17, 000 older adolescents (15-19), were newly infected during the year under review.

According to her, Nigeria houses 10 per cent of world’s infected adolescents, hence the need for the nation to urgently reverse the trend. The essence of programme, that hosted 50 infected adolescents from six states of the federation, was to educate and empower them as advocates in their states.

Isiramen observed that it was part of UNICEF’s mandate to ensure that adolescents were captured in every aspect of HIV responses, as the disease could not be eradicated without their involvement.

She said the trained adolescents were agents of change in the quest to eradicating the scourge. “Without adolescents being at the centre of HIV responses at all levels, we can not see the end of HIV/ AID,” Isiramen remarked. She appealed to government at all levels and relevant stakeholders to key into the organisation’s “All Hands Imitative” to champion the end of the disease by 2030.

Meanwhile, media organisations have been charged to play key roles in the battle against child mortality and malnutrition. UNICEF Communication Officer, Lagos, Mrs. Blessing Ejiofor, who gave the charge during a two-day training workshop for media practitioners in Ibadan, advocated for more a multi-sectoral partnership. The workshop was titled “Good nutrition, invest more.”

She confirmed the prevalence of micro-nutrient deficiency, under-nutrition and over-nutrition among the rich, rating Nigeria 37, 18 and 29 per cents on stunting, wasting and underweight with 17 per cent for exclusive breast feeding (EBF) as against the 50 per cent global benchmark.

Ejiofor noted that the training was to equip media practitioners with basic knowledge and advocacy with a view to finding lasting solutions to the twin issue. She asserted that the campaign, harped on six-month EBF for children from ages zero to three months and complementary food, would help in reducing the high incidence of child mortality and morbidity across the federation.

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