30th November, 2020
By Oluwafunke Ishola
An NGO, the Civil Society for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (CiSHAN), says increased awareness about sexually transmitted infections, especially the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has led to a decline in the rate of unprotected sex in Nigeria.
Mr Azeez Aladeyelu, the Lagos Coordinator of CiSHAN, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Lagos.
Aladeyelu said that mass sensitisation outreach embarked upon by various NGOs and their partners gave the citizens comprehensive information on sexual and reproductive health.
According to him, this has enhanced their confidence in the use of condoms as a protective measure.
He, however, said that transactional sex was not declining in Nigeria, due to increasing poverty rate among citizens.
“We engage sex workers in behavioural change activities to ensure that they use condom always, because HIV/AIDS is real.
“It doesn’t show on the face, and we advise them to always take HIV tests to know their health status.
“They are endangered species because of the nature of their work, and we know that some people engaged them and still mix with the general public,” he said.
According to him, awareness about protecting themselves against sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV, is high among the sex workers.
“If you meet female sex workers, they will not allow you to have unprotected sex with them, irrespective of the amount you offer them,” he said.
On whether the increased rape cases in the country could lead to spike in HIV infection, Aladeyelu said it was highly possible.
He, however, complained that inadequate data and records from law enforcement agencies might make it difficult to quantify the enormity of the issue.
Aladeyelu then appealed to victims of rape cases to lodge complaints in order to get medical care and psychological support that would assist them recover from the trauma.
Commenting, a sex worker, who pleaded anonymity, said that having unprotected sex was forbidden for those of them that operate within a brothel.
“The matron must not even hear of such proposition that any of us allowed a customer to have sex without using condom.
“We, even give condoms to our customers that don’t have, and some of us will go the extra mile of using the female condom for extra protection during sex.
“There was a time a customer overpowered my colleague and tried to have unprotected sex with her, the lady shouted and we all rushed in to rescue her.
“We beat and embarrassed the man out of the premises, and warned him never to set his feet within the vicinity of this place.
“We don’t joke with our health; the rule is that ‘no condom, no sex’. This has helped to protect a majority of us from HIV infection,” she said.
According to her, we regularly go for HIV tests to know our health status based on the risk and exposure associated with the business we do.
Contributing, Faustina Okon, a Clinical Service Specialist at DKT, Nigeria, said that there has been an increase in the demand for condoms post COVID-19 lockdown among the public.
DKT Nigeria distributes contraceptives nationally and its direct sales to providers through its network of medical sales representatives has made contraceptives more easily accessible and affordable.
Okon said that awareness about contraceptives had increased among the people, while myths and misinformation about the use of contraceptives had been debunked through various sensitisation campaigns.
“We talk to men and women about the dangers and preventive measures against contracting sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV.
“For some men that informed us that they enjoy sex only when it’s flesh to flesh, we encourage them to use our brand of ‘Ultra Thin’ condom, which makes them feel they are not wearing anything.
“These way, they protect themselves and partner from unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections,” she said.
Okon said that the health seeking behaviour of Nigerians about knowing their HIV status was still low.
She said many people don’t intentionally seek HIV tests, except it was demanded by a physician or for other purposes.
Okon said there are various oral HIV Tests Kits that could be purchased at pharmacies, advising Nigerians to explore such option to know their HIV health status in the comfort and privacy of their homes.
Commenting, Mrs Omolola Famakinwa, a Community Health Extension Worker, said some pregnant women with HIV were detected at the maternity during ante-natal registration.
“When they come like that, they were subjected to series of tests, including HIV. If they are tested positive, they will be transferred to a health counsellor who will make them know their status,’’ Famakinwa said.
According to her, the best strategies to minimise mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS start during ante-natal period.
“During this period, the infected mother will be placed on ART (Anti-retoviral Treatment) throughout the pregnancy period, while special attention would be paid to them during child delivery.
“The infected mother will be prevented from breastfeeding the baby to prevent or minimise the mother-to-child transmission.