….pushes for reforms in HIV response
From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Association of Positive Youths Living with HIV/Aids in Nigeria (APYIN) have demanded urgent actions that would culminate in review of the age of consent policy on HIV/Aids testing and treatment.
The Association confirmed that the age of consent was recently reduced to 14 years but was restricted to testing services alone, thus excluding others services are around HIV/Aids, hence the push that would, expectedly, enable access to HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Right (SRHR) services for adolescents and young people.
National Co-ordinator of APYIN, Aaron Sunday, told journalists at a press conference in Abuja, on Monday, that the Association was worried by the restrictions and frustrations being faced by younger people who desire HIV and SRHR services due to the age of consent policy.
He said: “Some progress was made some years ago when the National Council on Aids approved the change in age of consent from 18 to 14 years, but the approval was restricted to testing services alone. A written suggestion was, thereafter, presented to the immediate-past Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, for expanded action but he was unable to complete work on that until he left office.”
Aaron said the youth group was also pursing a review and reform of some identified harmful laws and policies that criminalize persons living with HIV and vulnerable young key populations, as well as a push to strengthen enforcement of laws and policies such as Anti-Stigma and Discrimination Act as well as Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act to promote access to justice especially for adolescents’ girls and young women who survived gender-based violence as well as young people living with HIV who are stigmatized or discriminated.
He, thus charged the government to ensure inclusiveness and meaningful engagement with adolescents and young people in policy and decision-making platforms, programmes design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation thus leaving no one behind.
Secretary of APYIN, Faith Onuh, in her remarks, suggested increased investment in addressing HIV, SRHR, GBV and other health and socio-economic needs of adolescents and young people in order to strengthen their opportunities to compete favorably in global spaces.
She added: “There’s need to fully integrate youth friendly health services into the Basic Health Care Provision Funds (BHCPF) at the Primary Health Care (PHC) centres, and also strengthen coordination and collaboration of multisectoral institutions, agencies, ministries towards financing HIV and SRHR responses.”
She also stressed the need to build and strengthen systems and structures of youth led organizations and meaningfully empowered them to lead programmes and interventions for the peers, while government should finance and make deliberate investment towards advancing HIV Cure research in Nigeria.
She stated: “Adolescents and Young People (AYP) constitute 48 per cent of the Nigeria population. The HIV prevalence among AYP in Nigeria has risen from 0.2 per cent for adolescent’s age 15-19 years to 1.3 per cent for female 20-24 years (NAIIS 2018). As at 2017; 247,293 adolescents between the ages of 10-19 were living with HIV in Nigeria (2020 Spectrum Estimates).
“While there was a 30 per cent decrease in AIDS-related mortality in adults, there was 50 per cent increase in AYPs. There are approximately 35,000 new HIV infection among adolescents and young people and 150,000 AIDS-related deaths in Nigeria (UNAIDS 2017&2018).
“Regrettably, Access to Family Life HIV Education (FLHE) and SRHR is increasingly being made difficult by various cultural, religious, economic and political factors,” she added.