Experts in the control of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) have called for more attention and focus on women to reduce the high prevalence of the infectious disease among the female gender.
Speaking at the graduation and public presentation of the Economic Empowerment for HIV/AIDS Vulnerable Young Women and Girls in Lagos State, organised by National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) in collaboration with Association of Women Living with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria (ASWHAM) and Tosin Anibaba Memorial (TAM) Fund, the acting Director-General, NACA, Dr. Sani H. Aliyu, said empowering young women to be economically dependent would go a long way in curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Aliyu said young girls and women are highly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS because of their dependence on men and their inability to say no and take informed decision when it comes to risky sexual behaviour.
Aliyu, who was represented by the Director, Policy and Strategy, NACA, Dr. Kayode Ogungbemi, said evidence has shown poverty and financial dependency as some of the major drivers of HIV, especially among females, with the same evidence suggesting economic empowerment as a social protection strategy that can improve the response and coping strategies of people infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS.
He noted that the scourge of HIV could be curbed by assisting people who are vulnerable to be entrepreneurial, to be economically empowered.
“The essence of the empowerment is to transform the lives of these young girls and women who are vulnerable to HIV/AIDS because of their dependence on men and because of their inability to say no and make an informed decision when it comes to risky sexual behaviour. By empowering them, they become independent and can make an informed decision about their sexual behaviours.
“Globally, there are five pillars of preventions that are recognised in fighting HIV/AIDS, one of those pillars is targeting adolescent girls and young women with effective intervention, and such intervention includes economic empowerment, the use of condoms and for them to also meet as a group to discuss their sexual behaviours and the risk they take. This is one example of such intervention.”
On his part, Chairman, Tosin Anibaba Memorial (TAM) Fund, Senator Dipo Odujirin, said with report showing that more women are coming down with HIV/AIDS; government should focus its attention in the direction of putting measures in place to address the scourge of the disease in the female gender.
He said the empowerment programme, organised for the girls and women will ensure a reduction in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among women in the country.
The Deputy Director, Gender Human Rights and Care Services, NACA, Dr. Yinka Falola-Anoemuah, on her part, explained that the training covered confectionary, craft and beautification, which include hair dressing, make-up and gele tying, as well as making of body essentials (soap, cream, and pomade) and agriculture- short term vegetable farming.
She added that the training also covers business management and life building skills to address sexual and gender-based violence, adding that the beneficiaries are provided start-up packs, to ensure value is added to the lives of women and girls that are indigent, vulnerable, living with or affected by HIV in Nigeria.
According to the Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS) released by NACA, women accounts for 1.9 per cent of the 1.9 million population living with the disease in the country, while men account for 1.1 per cent, with the national prevalence at 1.5 per cent.
The findings further revealed that 75 per cent of persons with HIV are between the reproductive and working ages of 15 and 49 year, with poverty recognised as one of the drivers of the HIV epidemic in Nigeria.