HealthSpecial Reports

SPECIAL REPORT : Nigeria Loses 55,000 Lives Annually, Over 2m Persons With HIV/AIDS 

FAWAZ ADEBISI writes on how Nigeria loses 55,000 persons every year to the HIV/AIDS despite it’s ranking from second place  to 32  spot, from a distressing in global HIV/AIDS rankings within a mere span of five years.


Recent data has shown that at least 55,000 lives are being claimed annually by Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome,  HIV/AIDS  in Nigeria.

This alarming statistic underscores the critical importance of ongoing efforts to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic and improve access to prevention, treatment, and awareness initiatives across the nation.


Within the Nigerian context, more than 2 million individuals are still living with the burden of HIV/AIDS, data has shown.

This figure serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing challenges faced by the country’s healthcare system and the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to curb the spread of the disease, ensure proper treatment, and provide support for affected individuals and their families.


It is encouraging to note that progress has been made on certain fronts. 


Data from 2022 indicates that approximately 90% of individuals living with HIV in Nigeria are aware of their status. 

Moreover, 82% of those diagnosed with the virus are receiving treatment, and an impressive 76% have achieved suppressed viral loads, a crucial measure of effective disease management.


The battle against HIV/AIDS also extends beyond Nigeria’s borders, as globally, an estimated 25.6 million individuals were living with HIV in 2022. 


Of these, nearly 21.9 million individuals were undergoing antiretroviral therapy, contributing to a reduction of 56% in HIV-related deaths since 2010.


While the strides made in HIV/AIDS management and prevention are commendable, the persistent challenges and loss of life underscore the pressing need for sustained efforts. 


The estimated 660,000 people who acquired HIV in 2022 serve as a reminder that the fight against the virus is far from won.

As recently as 2018, Nigeria found itself at the forefront of a sobering statistic, ranking second in the world for the highest number of reported HIV/AIDS cases. 


Fast forward to 2023, the nation’s efforts, strategic interventions, and unwavering commitment to stemming the tide of the epidemic yielded a remarkable turnaround.


The decline in ranking can be attributed to Nigeria’s dedication to enacting comprehensive strategies aimed at curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS which is part of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. 


Government agencies, healthcare institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the public at large have joined forces to tackle the multifaceted challenges posed by the virus.


While challenges persist, the progress made thus far underscores the country’s capacity to effect meaningful change and overcome complex public health challenges.


Nigeria, despite being a prominent African nation, currently ranks 32nd in the world for HIV/AIDS-related deaths, with Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland) taking the unfortunate lead in this tragic chart. 


Eswatini’s struggles serve as a poignant reminder of the impact of the virus on vulnerable populations and the need for global cooperation to address this persistent health crisis.


Ogun Ranks 19 As Akwa Ibom Receives Highest HIV Case In 2023


In the latest data on HIV prevalence across Nigeria, Akwa Ibom state has emerged as the region with the highest HIV prevalence, recording a concerning rate of 5.6%. 


This revelation places Akwa Ibom at the forefront of states grappling with the HIV epidemic, underlining the urgent need for intensified efforts to combat the spread of the virus.


Benue state closely trails behind Akwa Ibom, reporting a notable HIV prevalence rate of 4.9%. 


The significance of these figures cannot be overstated, as both states have consistently maintained their positions within the top four states with the highest HIV prevalence for the past decade.


The alarming data also unveils a clear regional pattern, with the South-South geopolitical zone, which includes states like Akwa Ibom and Rivers, registering the highest overall HIV prevalence rate at 3.1%. 


The South-East zone follows closely with a prevalence rate of 1.9%, while the South-West zone reports a relatively lower rate of 1.2%. 


In contrast, the North-Central zone records a prevalence rate of 2.1%, the North-East zone stands at 1.1%, and the North-West zone exhibits the lowest prevalence at 0.6%.


While Nigeria’s national HIV prevalence remains relatively stable at 1.4% among adults aged 15–49 years, a notable gender disparity persists. 


Women aged 15–49 are more than twice as likely to be living with HIV than men in the same age group, with rates of 1.9% and 0.9%, respectively. 


This gender gap is most pronounced among young adults aged 20–24, where young women are over three times more likely to be affected by HIV compared to their male counterparts.


Over the years, the number of people living with  HIV in Nigeria reduced from 3.2 million in 2019 to approximately 1.5 million in 2022. 


This decline in prevalence is mirrored in the decrease of HIV prevalence from 3.2% in 2004 to 1.2% in 2022, showcasing a notable reduction of 1.6%.


…We Would Prevent Taps From Running-NACA DG 


Dr. Gambo Aliyu, the Director-General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), in a recent interview, articulated a comprehensive approach to combating Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, HIV/AIDS. 


Dr. Aliyu unveiled innovative strategies aimed at curbing the spread of the virus and ultimately ending the epidemic by the target year of 2030.


Amid the looming deadline, Dr. Aliyu stressed the urgency of significantly reducing new infections, steering the numbers towards an eventual zero. 


The NACA DG detailed a multi-faceted approach that addresses different dimensions of HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and community engagement.


Reflecting on two decades of collaborative efforts, Dr. Aliyu acknowledged the instrumental role of partnerships with international entities such as the American government, the Global Fund, the United Nations, civil society organizations, and the private sector. 


These partnerships have been pivotal in the collective endeavor to counter the epidemic.


A particularly illuminating aspect of NACA’s strategy revolves around the metaphor of “taps that are running.” 


Dr. Aliyu elucidated that the central tap to be shut off is that of new infections. Stopping the transmission of the virus is a fundamental step in effectively addressing AIDS. 


By arresting new cases, the focus pivots towards managing existing infections, involving the identification of individuals across Nigeria living with the virus.


Dr. Aliyu delineated a comprehensive blueprint centered on swift identification, treatment, and consistent medication for those living with HIV/AIDS. 


According to him, achieving an undetectable viral load in the bloodstream significantly curbs the risk of transmission, thereby contributing to the decline of the epidemic.


He revealed that one of NACA’s innovative approach involves transitioning from a clinic-centric model to a community-based paradigm. 


By broadening their outreach beyond health facilities, NACA has successfully engaged communities, facilitating access to vital services at people’s doorsteps, as this shift has yielded remarkable results, with NACA identifying and treating a higher number of individuals living with HIV/AIDS over the past four years than ever before in Nigeria’s history.


In light of these groundbreaking strategies, Nigeria has emerged as a global leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS, serving as a model for other nations. 


Dr. Aliyu expressed optimism about Nigeria’s trajectory and its pivotal role in propelling global progress towards ending AIDS by 2030. 


Through increased community involvement, strategic partnerships, and a renewed commitment to preventing new infections, NACA is forging a path towards a future where HIV/AIDS is no longer an omnipresent threat, and those living with the virus can lead healthier, more fulfilling lives.


Responding to inquiries about the possibility of completely eradicating HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, Dr. Aliyu radiated confidence, envisioning a transformative shift within the next two to three years. 


He reiterated that while progress is already underway, achieving this ambitious goal will necessitate sustained dedication, active stakeholder engagement, and continued support from the private sector.


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