Nigerian Young people in the face of National HIV Response: Developing Youth-Led and Data-Driven  Scorecard

WhatsApp Image 2018-10-26 at 12.43.53 (1)Adolescents and young people are critical to the HIV response in Nigeria. According to most estimates, Nigeria contributes to 10% of the total number of adolescents living with HIV/AIDS globally. And adolescent girls and young women contribute disproportionately to all new infections compared to their male peers. In addition to this, due to the issues of stigma, discrimination and criminalization, people who use drugs, female sex workers, and LGBT persons are at a higher risk of infection and contribute significantly to new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths in Nigeria.

In a bid to review youth engagement in tracking the policies, laws, commitments and activities needed to end the AIDS epidemic and build an evidence-based scorecard for continued advocacy and social accountability, Education as a Vaccine (EVA), with support from UNAIDS Nigeria and National Agency for the Control of AIDS, NACA collaborated with Association of Positive Youth Living with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria (APYIN) and Youth Rise to organise a “One-Day Workshop on the Development of Youth-Led Country Scorecard for Nigeria”.

Participants at the workshop were drawn from individuals between ages 15 and 30 representing HIV/SRHR youth organizations/associations/networks from across the country as well as youth focal persons from government MDAs.

In his opening remarks, Itoro Ekanem, a Program Officer with EVA, said that, in the work being done around HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, there is a need to prioritise and work with young people. He called on all participants to speak up for their peers to reach a consensus on a scorecard that is representative of the reality of the Nigeria HIV Response vis-a-vis adolescents and young people.

And, the representative of the UNAIDS Country Director, Ekanmian Gatien during his welcome reiterated the readiness of UNAIDS to work with stakeholders in Nigeria to achieving the 90-90-90 target. He is optimistic that the will of the young people gathered will translate into a scorecard that will better improve Nigeria HIV response programming.

Also discussed during the course of the workshop were the laws and policies that restrict adolescent’s access to sexual and reproductive health services, including condoms and HIV testing and/or HIV treatment based on their age. They called for the need to allow condom promotion in secondary school, make Family Life and HIV/AIDS Education (FLHE) curriculum compulsory, as well as eradicate barriers such as the age of consent guideline that prevent young people from accessing services and impedes their participation in the HIV response.

Subsequently, the next action is the dissemination of the draft scorecard to adolescents and young people focused organisations for their inputs, as well as the need to establish or revitalize youth network/coalition(s) that will become an active voice and represent young people’s agenda in regard to HIV response in Nigeria