About 3,500 male sex workers, most of whom are married were recently discovered in Abuja city centre by National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA). This was revealed today by the agency’s Director General, Professor John Idoko, while lecturing on the strategies to achieve a HIV free nation.
The agency further said that the figure poses immense worry to it since most of the male sex workers are married and on that account put their spouses at risk of contracting HIV.
The Director General, made the shocking revelation while addressing the maiden lecture to mark this year’s World AIDS day in Abuja, yesterday. According to him, a study carried out by the agency indicated that over 60% of the male sex workers are married raising the concern of spousal HIV transmission.
He also said that the new study done by the agency also showed that a high percentage of married women in Cross River and Benue had other sexual partners within the last six months.
The maiden lecture which focused on the “Strategies for Ending AIDS in Nigeria by 2030” according to him, addressed the way to end HIV epidemic in Nigeria. The agency is targeting key areas in its race to kick the virus out of the country.
He further said that the agency has discovered key areas which house larger population of persons with HIV within the Federal Capital Territory therefore, putting more resources in those areas will go a long way in achieving a HIV free territory. The key areas based on his statement include three council areas of Gwagwalada, Bwari and Abuja Municipal.
He added that the agency is developing interventions in order to cut-down contact between people with HIV and people who are HIV free.
Professor James Blanchard, director of Global Health at the University of Manitoba, Canada also lectured that HIV prevention is a very complicated thing even with modern technologies as there are social factors that need to be addressed like political commitment and advocacy, laws and labor policies, community mobilization and a host of other things.
He went on to say that Nigeria is a very big and complex country so getting to the right people who are supposed to receive the treatment demands that the country would concentrate on the right environment and high risk areas. Also that the agency’s survey has found eight states in Nigeria which are prime concern as HIV is not evenly distributed adding that there are very large population in parts of FCT, Lagos, Nasarawa and Benue. In the words of Professor James Blanchard
“We need to match our HIV interventions with the population of HIV distribution. We need to get down to the micro level to know where we put our resources. We have the sex workers, persons who inject drugs and men who have sex with men,”
“We found that in Benue, 60 per cent of men who visited bars, restaurants and hotels were seeking sexual partners while 12 per cent of the females were seeking sexual partners and 9 percent of those who patronize these places are female sex workers.
“We also saw substantial risk behavior in rural areas. In Benue, 30 per cent of the unmarried men had visited a sex worker and 18 per cent had visited sex workers within the last one month. But this was not the same across other states as some places were high risk areas.”
“We need to recognize that Nigeria has a high mixed epidemic with a large number of female sex workers and high causal and female sex workers in urban areas,” Blanchard said.
“We need to think of structural programmes to reduce stigma, to reduce vulnerability and violence for sex workers. We should focus our interventions in urban hotspots rather than thinking of a general flood irrigation approach,”