As the World AIDS Day celebration goes on today, one thing is obvious: HIV/AIDS is far from being a myth. Globally, more than 34 million people are living with the viral disease while over three million Nigerians have contracted the infection, the second highest in the world. Again, statistics from the United Nations indicate that Nigeria is a current leader in the number of children having HIV/AIDS, with its 60, 000 children contracting the disease as of 2012.
The import is that Nigeria is dragging the world back due to the increasing rates of HIV infection in the country. In fact, the global body says that with the frightening statistics from the ‘giant of Africa’, it may be imposible for it to meet the Millennium Development Goals 4,5 and 6 by 2015. The report notes, “Nigeria has the largest number of children acquiring HIV infection, a number that has remained largely unchanged since 2009.Without urgent action in Nigeria, the global target for 2015 is unlikely to be reached.”
Even as the UN brandishes these figures, medical practitioners have attributed the high percentage in the country to the fact that many Nigerians do not know their HIV status. They note that though over 90 million Nigerians know that HIV/AIDS exists and kills when not detected early, they have yet to be tested. A report by the Federal Ministry of Health also confirms that more than 70 per cent of Nigerians do not know their HIV/AIDS status.
According to an official of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, Mr. Effiong Eno, despite the increased awareness, many Nigerians have yet to go for test due to fear of stigmatisation. Eno says, “Largely, people do not want to go for test because they think it is a death sentence. But we will continue to say that it is not HIV that kills; it is not knowing your status. It is not getting treated on time that is actually killing Nigerians.”