As the country battles to contain the escalating number of COVID-19 infection, the National Agency for Control of AIDS, NACA says the high rate of HIV/AIDS among the never-married and children is a cause for worry.
The agency had recently embarked on HIV mode of transmission study to identify volatile population in the country as well as applying the needed action to curtail the spread.
Briefing newsmen in Abuja on Monday, Director General of the agency, Dr Gambo Gumel Aliyu said unmarried sexually active men and women as well as mother-to-child account for the largest source of new HIV infections nationally.
He noted that never married uncircumcised and circumcised men between the ages of 19-31, never married women between the ages of 17-34, female sex workers, men who have sex with men and children constitute the population where new infections are occurring.
While noting that mother-to-child transmission accounts to as much as 22 percent of new infections countrywide and in some states 50 percent, Dr. Aliyu said the study on new mode of HIV transmission has given the agency a new direction of where to focus attention and channel more resources.
He stressed that in coming years, HIV transmission will be drastically reduced, adding that achieving zero transmission, zero death and epidemic control has made the study very important.
He said NACA’s efforts both in prevention and treatment as well as creating awareness will be focused on the identified vulnerable groups.
In his presentation, the Chief Programme Officer for Research, M&A, Tosin Adebanjo said about 20,000 new child infections are recorded annually, noting that only about 60 percent of pregnant women receive antenatal care from skilled provider annually.
He therefore called for an increase effort to identify high risk women to motivate them to attend antenatal care and get tested.
“Never Married Females, Never Married Males, Female Sex Workers and Men who have Sex with Men. These four population groups account for about 91% of all new infections among adults.
“Key populations are estimated to account for about 12% of new infections although they represent less than 2% of the total population.
“New child infections due to mother-to-child transmission represent the second source of new infection accounting for 22% of all new infections. In many states the contribution is even larger. For example, in Ebonyi state, new child infections account for more than half of all new infections” he said.
People who inject drugs, previously married as well as husband and wife who have same serostatus were identified as a volatile population for HIV.
While calling for consistent condom use among casual partners, NACA also cautioned against stigma and discrimination, saying it reduces access to treatment.