HIV & AIDS in Nigeria
Nigeria has the biggest population in Africa with 1 in 6 Africans being Nigerian. Although the HIV prevalence is much lower in Nigeria than in other African countries such as South Africa and Zambia, the size of Nigeria's population meant that by the end of 2005, there were an estimated 2,900,000 people living with HIV/AIDS. This is the largest number in the world after South Africa.
Nigeria has a great deal of influence in West Africa. It is an important member of ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) and plays a central role in ECOMOG's (the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group) peacekeeping operation. HIV/AIDS has already badly affected Nigeria society and its economy. If the epidemic continues at its current rate, or worsens, there could be knock on effects across the whole region.
The first case of AIDS was identified in Nigeria in 1986 and HIV prevalence rose from 1.8% in 1988 to 5.8% in 2001. Since 1991, the Federal Ministry of Health has carried out a National HIV/syphilis sentinel seroprevalence survey every 2 years. The 2003 survey estimated that there were 3,300,000 adults living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, and 1,900,000 (57%) of these were women.
In the 2003 survey, the national HIV prevalence had dropped to 5% from 5.8% in 2001. However, it found that state prevalence rates varied from as low as 1.2% in Osun state to as high as 12% in Cross River state. Overall, 13 of Nigeria's 36 states had an HIV prevalence over 5%. These figures give support to the claim that there are explosive, localized epidemics in some states.
At 5.6%, HIV/AIDS prevalence is highest among young people between the ages of 20 and 24 compared with other age groups. Nigeria's STD/HIV Control estimates that over 60% of new HIV infections are in the 15-25 year old age group.
In 2005 it was estimated there were 220,000 deaths from AIDS, and 930,000 AIDS orphans living in Nigeria. There has been an alarming increase in the number of HIV positive children in recent years, 90% of whom contract the virus from their mothers.
Currently very few Nigerians have access to basic HIV/AIDS prevention, care, support or treatment services.
 HIV transmitted in Nigeria
Some 80% of HIV infections in Nigeria are transmitted by heterosexual sex. Factors contributing to this include a lack of information about sexual health and HIV, low levels of condom use and high levels of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea, which make it easier for the virus to be transmitted.
Blood transfusions are responsible for about 10% of all HIV infections. There is a high demand for blood because of road traffic accidents, blood loss from surgery and childbirth, and anaemia from malaria. As there is no coordinated national blood supply system, blood isn't routinely tested for HIV, and a recent study found that 4% of blood donors in Lagos were HIV positive.
The remaining 10% of HIV infections are acquired through other routes such as mother-to-child transmission, homosexual sex and injecting drug use. The rate of mother-to-child transmission in Nigeria has gone up in recent years as the number of HIV positive women has increased.5 AVERT is calling for rapid improvements in global prevention of mother-to-child transmission strategies in our Stop AIDS in Children campaign.
 Factors contributing to the spread of HIV in Nigeria
Lack of sexual health information and education
Sex is traditionally a very private subject in Nigeria for cultural and religious reasons. The discussion of sex with teenagers, especially girls, is seen as indecent. Up until recently there was little or no sexual health education for young people and this has been a major barrier to reducing rates of HIV and other STIs. Lack of accurate information about sexual health has meant there are many myths and misconceptions about sex and HIV, contributing to increasing transmission rates as well as stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV/AIDS.
Stigma and discrimination
Stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS are commonplace in Nigeria. Both Christians and Muslims see immoral behaviour as being the cause of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This affects attitudes towards people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and HIV prevention. PLWHA often lose their jobs or are denied healthcare services because of the ignorance and fear about HIV and AIDS. There is so much ignorance that 60% of healthcare workers think HIV positive patients should be isolated from other patients.
Poor healthcare services
Over the last two decades, Nigeria's healthcare care system has deteriorated because of political instability, corruption and a mismanaged economy. Large parts of the country lack even basic healthcare provision, making it difficult to establish HIV testing and prevention services such as those for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission. Sexual health clinics providing contraception and testing and treatment for other STIs are also few and far between.
Nigeria is a male dominated society and women are seen as inferior to men. Women's traditional role is to have children and be responsible for the home. Their low status and lack of access to education increases their vulnerability to HIV infection. Certain social and cultural practices also make them vulnerable to HIV.
Harmful marriage practices violate women's human rights and contribute to increasing HIV rates in women and girls. In Nigeria there is no legal minimum age for marriage and early marriage is still the norm in some areas. Parents see it as a way of protecting young girls from the outside world and maintaining their chastity.
Many girls get married between the ages of 12 and 13 and there is usually a large age gap between husband and wife. Young married girls are at risk of contracting HIV from their husbands as it is acceptable for men to have sexual partners outside marriage and some men have more than one wife (polygamy). Because of their age, lack of education and low status, young married girls are not able to negotiate condom use to protect themselves against HIV and STIs.
Female circumcision/female genital mutilation (FGM) is a cultural practice whereby all or part of the external female genitalia is removed by cutting. Around 60% of all Nigerian women experience FGM and it is most common in the south, where up to 85% of women undergo it at some point in their lives. FGM puts women and girls at risk of contracting HIV from unsterilized instruments, such as knives and broken glass that are used during the procedure.
Although prostitution is illegal in Nigeria there are more than a million female sex workers. HIV infection rates among sex workers have been estimated to be as high as 30% in some areas. There are low levels of condom use among sex workers because of a lack of knowledge about HIV transmission and poor acceptance by male clients.
 The Government response
It wasn't until the restoration of democracy in 1999 that a serious national effort was made in Nigeria to tackle HIV/AIDS. Since then, the Olesegun administration has placed high priority on prevention, treatment, care and support activities. It has established two key institutions - the Presidential Committee on AIDS and the National AIDS Action Committee on AIDS (NACA) to coordinate the various HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care activities in Nigeria.
NACA's main responsibility is the execution and implementation of activities under the HIV/AIDS Emergency Action Plan (HEAP), introduced in 1996 as a bridge to long-term strategic plan. HEAP had two main components: firstly to break down barriers to HIV prevention and support community based responses, and secondly to provide prevention, care and support interventions directly. HEAP has now been replaced with the National HIV/AIDS Strategic Framework, which will run until 2009.
So far there has been some progress towards the goals of HEAP but there are still huge gaps in HIV prevention, treatment and care services, particularly at community level.
Nigeria's STD/HIV control estimates that 60% of all new HIV infection occurs in young people between the ages of 15 and 25. Last year a new curriculum was introduced for comprehensive sex education for 10-18 year olds. It focuses on improving young people's knowledge and attitudes to sexual health and reducing sexual risk taking behaviours. In the past attempts at providing sex education for young people were hampered by religious and cultural objections. The new curriculum was developed with consultation from religious and community leaders and hopefully will remain in place in the future. Condoms
Condoms have become nearly universally available in Nigeria because of efforts to increase coverage and subsidise prices. Uptake and use is affected by people's perceptions of how effective condoms are, perceived effects on sexual satisfaction and people not wanting to be seen as promiscuous as a result of buying them. These are all factors that are being overcome. More serious barriers are opposition from religious organisations and traditional societies, which are more difficult to break down, but with careful negotiation and consultation progress is being made.
Another high profile media campaign is fronted by Femi Kuti, the son of Fela Kuti, the famous Afro beat musician who died of AIDS in 1997. He appears on billboards alongside roads throughout Nigeria with the slogan 'AIDS: No dey show for face' which translates as you can't tell someone has AIDS by looking at them.
National antiretroviral programme
In 2004 the programme suffered a major setback when it was hit by a shortage of drugs. This meant that some people didn't receive treatment for up to three months. Eventually, another $3.8 million worth of drugs were then ordered and the programme resumed. However, it took a long time to achieve the 2002 goal because of poor infrastructure and management.
At the end of 2006, around 550,000 people were estimated to require antiretroviral therapy, of whom 81,000 (15%) were receiving the drugs.1 Although this is twice as many as were on treatment at the end of 2005, Nigeria's coverage rate is still only half of the average for sub-Saharan Africa.
ARV production in Nigeria
In 2001, Ranbaxy Nigeria, a subsidiary of Ranbaxy India, India's largest pharmaceutical company, signed an agreement with the Nigerian Government to supply ARVs manufactured at its plant in Lagos. In 2004 Archy Pharmaceuticals, a Nigerian owned pharmaceutical company, also set up a new plant manufacturing ARVs in Lagos. This should increase the availability of ARVs to people in Nigeria and other West African countries.
Government spending on HIV/AIDS
Government spending on HIV/AIDS has been very low. The WHO recently estimated that only 4 Naira ($0.03) is spent per person on HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care by the Nigerian government. To be effective, the UN estimates that 260-390 Naira ($2-3) needs to be spent per person.
Sources of funding
Many NGOs and international organisations provide funding for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. The main donors are PEPFAR, the Global Fund and the World Bank.
In the past few years, Nigeria has received large amounts of money to target HIV/AIDS from the US as part of PEPFAR (the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). Some have suggested that part of the reason for this is US interest in Nigeria's oil and natural gas reserves. The US hopes to double the amount of oil imported from Nigeria in the next five years and is pressing Nigeria to withdraw from OPEC (the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries) to give the US control over the oil market there.
PEPFAR is expected to allocate $84 million to Nigeria in 2005 for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care. It aims to provide antiretrovirals to HIV positive people, prevent over one million new infections and provide care and give support to people affected by HIV/AIDS, including AIDS orphans.
PEPFAR funds will focus on abstinence and fidelity education, mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) and blood safety. Existing sites will be scaled up and new ones created. Access to home-based care and voluntary counselling and testing services will be expanded too. Condom marketing will be improved, but only for those for those thought to be at high risk of being infected, such as prostitutes and truck drivers. Condoms will not be marketed to young people or married couples; this may or may not affect the general availability of condoms in Nigeria.
An example of a PEPFAR funded project is the Global HIV/AIDS Initiative Nigeria (GHAIN). This is a five-year project aiming to provide ART and care to HIV positive people and to prevent 800,000 new infections by 2009.
The Global Fund
The Global Fund is providing $28 million over two years to expand government ART, prevention and MTCT programmes to reach 20,000 people. Nearly $9 million of this will be given to the Nigerian government to fund the expansion of ART.
The World Bank
A World Bank Multi-country HIV/AIDS Program (MAP) loan of $90.3 million was allocated to Nigeria in 2002. This was to support national programmes already in place. The Nigerian government was allocated the money as they agreed to channel it quickly to community programmes and NGOs. However, by 2004, only $9.62 million had been accessed, due to delays at national and state level. Because of this, it was reported last year that the Nigerian Government could lose the unspent World Bank money.