At least 3.5 million Nigerians have contracted HIV/AIDS since the first AIDS case was reported in the west African country two decades ago, a medical research worker said here Saturday.
Delivering a paper, entitled HIV/AIDS in Nigeria: An Overview, at a one-day workshop to review the management of HIV/AIDS in pregnancy in Nigerian health institutions, Dr. Chris Agboghoroma of the Nigerian National Hospital said about 5.4 percent of Nigerian women were infected with HIV/AIDS.
He said the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the country was 5.8 percent as in 2001, and about 60 percent of the people living withHIV/AIDS were within the age bracket of 15 to 25 years old.
He noted that studies have shown that AIDS was the leading cause of death in Africa and the fourth in the world, while 70 percent of the world's HIV infections were in sub-Saharan Africa, which had 10 percent of the world's population.
He gave the global population of HIV/AIDS patients as 42 million, with 15,000 new infections occurring daily.
A national HIV prevalence study for the 1992-2001 period showedthat the rate had been on the increase over the years, from 1.8 percent in 1992 to 5.8 percent in 2001.
He identified ignorance, poverty, unsafe sexual practice, and low status of women among other factors as the major driving forces of HIV epidemic in the country.
"This situation has grave social and economic impact, as life expectancy has fallen to 51 years from 53 in 1991, with the productive age group dwindling fast, while the labor force becomesless productive and thousands of children become orphans," the gynecologist said.
While commending the government for the multi-sectoral responsein the prevention, treatment and impact mitigation programs, Agboghoroma called for more commitment from the government, healthworkers and the public.
He said the spread of HIV could be controlled and the impact ofthe disease mitigated in Nigeria as in some developing countries like Uganda "where the incidence dropped to 10 percent from 33 percent."