Lead Writers: Amaechi Peace Chiamaka and Bernard Otu Assim-ita

HIV remains a significant public health challenge in Nigeria, which ranks fourth globally in terms of HIV burden. According to 2019 estimates, approximately 1.8 million people in Nigeria are living with HIV. In 2019 alone, Nigeria recorded about 107,112 new HIV infections, accounting for 38% of new infections in the West and Central African region. Additionally, Nigeria is responsible for about 41% of vertically transmitted HIV infections in children within this region as of 2018.

Globally, progress in HIV prevention has been notably uneven, with a significant number of countries falling short of the 2025 targets. Many nations are facing a prevention crisis characterised by limited access to services and a concerning surge in new HIV infections. Nigeria is no exception to these challenges, contending with issues such as challenges with sustained political leadership, insufficient investment in effective HIV prevention programs, and gaps in the implementation of existing policies and plans.

The 2024 Nigeria HIV Prevention Conference (#NHIVYPC2024), hosted by the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Health, and the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), explored these pressing issues under the theme “Accelerating HIV Prevention to End AIDS through Innovations and Community Engagement.” This gathering aimed at highlighting the current challenges and fostering discussions on innovative solutions and community involvement that are imperative in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Since the last HIV Prevention Conference held in 2016, there has been a seven-year gap without a national discussion until the 2024 HIV Prevention Conference in Abuja. With such a long interval, one would hope for significant milestones in the country’s battle against HIV or at least positive feedback on the progress of the steps presented at the 2016 conference but the recent projections reflect that Nigeria has fallen off by 83% which equates a slow process and almost no action. 

HIV prevention in Nigeria is still obstructed by shortfalls in prevention financing and punitive laws. Social stigma, violence, discrimination and social exclusion are barriers to key populations’ access to healthcare services and information, exacerbating their risk of acquiring HIV. Law reform is a crucial enabler of prevention programmes. Protecting the human rights of everyone is vital for protecting the health of everyone.

Education as a Vaccine’s Session Banner

The #UnitedForPrevention Coalition, driven by Education as a Vaccine and supported by Frontline AIDS and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, hosted a session titled “Community perspectives on accelerating progress towards 2025 HIV prevention targets through strategic implementation of the National Prevention Plan-sponsored session” at the #NHIVYPC2024.

Idoko Philip, Programs Officer at Education as a Vaccine and moderator of the session, set the tone by encouraging participants to view the dialogue as a valuable opportunity for shared learning. He emphasised that the session aimed to enable communities and stakeholders to share insights, identify gaps, and discuss challenges related to Nigeria’s progress toward achieving the 2025 HIV prevention targets. It also sought to foster robust stakeholder engagement to amplify community involvement and build strategic partnerships to serve as catalysts for implementing the national prevention plan while Identifying priorities, strategies, and recommendations for strategically implementing the National Prevention Plan (NPP) and accelerating progress towards the 2025 HIV prevention targets. 

The conference provided a platform for a comprehensive review of Nigeria’s progress towards the 2025 HIV prevention targets, highlighting areas for targeted and effective interventions, and promoting enhanced collaboration and coordination among stakeholders to guide results in the successful implementation of, the national prevention plan. 

In a session hosted by Pathfinder, themed: Advancing HIV Prevention: Exploring Innovations with FC2 Female Condoms, the focus was on the role of FC2 female condoms in HIV prevention. The discussion highlighted innovative strategies and research related to its use, exploring how FC2 contributes to comprehensive HIV prevention efforts and the future of female-controlled prevention methods.

During this session, Faithful Fabiyi, Education as a Vaccine’s Programs Officer, shared valuable insights into the current landscape of HIV prevention. She emphasised the significant impact of social norms and the lack of policy implementation on program support. Fabiyi underscored the importance of consent in achieving sexual reproductive justice, stressing that empowering women with control over their sexual health is crucial for effective HIV prevention. The session not only provided a platform for discussing the potential of FC2 female condoms but also brought to light the broader challenges in the field of HIV prevention. 

Our Executive Director Toyin Chukwudozie, also spoke at a session, focusing on HIV prevention in the multisectoral space where she emphasised the crucial role of the government in encouraging the private sector to align with the government’s vision for integration of HIV prevention services and improved health outcomes for all Nigerians.

Some participants at the end of the #UnitedForPrevention Session.

By bringing together diverse stakeholders and focusing on strategic, data-driven approaches, the #UnitedForPrevention coalition through their session also, enhanced collaboration and comprehensive understanding to drive more effective interventions and accelerate progress toward a future where HIV is no longer a major public health threat in Nigeria as advocacy visits to NACA and other key institutions are planned to ensure sustained commitment and action. 

The conference has laid the groundwork for a renewed and intensified battle against HIV, offering hope for a healthier future for all Nigerians. The time for action is now, and with updated data, innovative strategies, and enhanced collaborations, Nigeria is poised to make significant strides in HIV prevention and treatment.