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UNAIDS Reports 77,000 New HIV Infections and 43,000 Deaths in Nigeria in 2022

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In 2022, Nigeria witnessed 77,000 new HIV infections and 43,000 AIDS-related deaths, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Doris Ogbang, the National Programme officer of the organization, revealed these figures during the World AIDS Day (WAD) commemoration in Abuja.

Of the new HIV infections, 60% affected females, 40% males, 29% children, and 17% young people aged 15-24. Nigeria currently has 1.9 million people living with HIV, comprising 1.8 million adults (92%) and 160,000 children (8%).

Globally, an estimated 1.3 million new HIV infections occurred in 2022, with 46% affecting females and 54% males. Ogbang stressed the importance of addressing inequalities, combating stigma and discrimination against those with the disease, and prioritizing HIV prevention, integration, and sustainability in the response.

Dr. Leo Zekeng, the UNAIDS Country Representative (represented by the Senior Strategic Information Adviser), emphasized the pivotal role of communities in leading the HIV response in Nigeria. The theme of World AIDS Day this year is dedicated to community-led efforts. The UN joint team in the country, comprising 11 agencies, has a joint plan to support the AIDS response from 2024 to 2025, with $800,000 mobilized to achieve these goals.

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We’re bullied, ill-treated in state, federal health facilities, young nurses allege

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Amid dwindling health workers in the health sector, young nurses across the country have raised the alarm over widespread bullying and overwork they face in the state and federal government-owned health facilities, noting that it is impacting negatively on their productivity.

They lamented that these are challenges contributing to the declining number of nurses in the profession and posing significant risks to patient care.

The nurses spoke exclusively with Theheute during a press briefing organised by the Nursing Group Administrators to protest against the new certificate verification guidelines set up by the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria.

The aggrieved nurses lamented that many of them have been subjected to various forms of bullying by senior colleagues, including verbal abuse, humiliation, and exclusion.

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They noted that these experiences have exposed them to mental health issues, with some choosing to leave the profession and travel abroad to work.

One of the young nurses, who is also a representative of the group, Edike Osemeke, said the alarming trend is exacerbating the country’s nursing shortage, thus, putting patient safety at risk.

He added, “One of the key challenges highlighted by younger nurses is the unfair workload on their cadre, the reluctance of hospital managements to employ more nurses, and the toxic work culture in their facilities.

“We take these issues seriously because young nurses are the most mobile group and their complaints about frustration and lack of support contribute significantly to their outward migration, especially to private facilities, and non-clinical work settings such as HM0s of federal facilities in Nigeria.

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“We believe the Ministry of Health and other relevant authorities should take firm policy decisions that would prevent bullying, ensure fair distribution of workload and promote an amiable and supportive work culture to improve the retention of young Nurses.”

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Speaking on the NMCN verification, Osemeke maintained that the new NMCN’s verification guidelines are impractical and also detrimental to the advancement of healthcare standards in Nigeria.

According to him, the new NMCN’s verification guidelines would worsen the existing skills gap within the country.

He further insisted that excessive documentation demands and extensive waiting periods serve as significant barriers hindering nurses from acquiring knowledge and career advancement.

Another nurse, Cletus Onyekosor affirmed the hostile work environment, lamenting that young nurses are also being overworked, with many working long hours and caring for more patients than is safe or manageable.

He noted that this has led to increased stress and burnout among nurses, which he noted can negatively impact patient care.

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The nurse urged hospital administrators and policymakers to take immediate action to address the issue, including implementing anti-bullying policies and providing better support for young nurses.

Onyekosor added that strain on the mental and psychological health of nurses and occupational-related health conditions such as back pain, joint pains, infection, assaults, and physical and sexual abuse contributed to the high number of nurses exiting the system across the country.

Speaking on the NMCN verification guidelines, Onyekosor said the Council failed to engage in meaningful dialogue with stakeholders, disregarding the concerns and insights of those directly impacted by what he described as draconian measures.

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He said, “We demand immediate action from the NMCN to revoke these unjust rules and engage in genuine consultation with nursing professionals and relevant stakeholders. The continued enforcement of these regulations will exacerbate the crisis in healthcare delivery, leading to dire consequences for both nurses and patients.

“Addressing the concerns raised by younger nurses regarding workload distribution, the reluctance of hospital management to hire additional staff, and toxic work culture is paramount. Policy decisions should be enacted to prevent mistreatment, ensure fair workload distribution, and foster a supportive work environment to retain young nurses and mitigate migration to alternative work settings.

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“We advocate for the establishment of a robust and objective feedback mechanism by the council and government to monitor the decision-making factors and challenges faced by critical healthcare workforce members like nurses. This can be achieved through regular workforce surveys, exit interviews, and ongoing engagement with relevant associations.

“Building an evidence-based approach will enable more proactive and responsive policy interventions, both in financial and non-financial incentives, to maintain a skilled and motivated nursing workforce.”

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Nursing mother stranded in hospital, alleges husband diverted medical fund

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A new mother, Susan Ubangha, has cried for help over her deteriorating health condition after giving birth at the Alimosho General Hospital in the Igando area of Lagos State.

This is as she alleged that her husband used the money meant for her medical bill to buy a phone and a dog.

Ubangha, in a lengthy post on her X handle, stated that her ordeal started in the weeks leading to the delivery of her baby as she started to experience sudden and severe shortness of breath.

The nursing mother who claimed to have been rushed to the hospital alleged that her husband failed to pay for her hospital bills.

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She claimed that her husband was opposed to a caesarean section due to the financial constraints while he suggested that would deliver the baby naturally

She wrote, “I got traditionally married recently and took in. I thought that was the best thing that happened to me, everything was going well until I entered the 35th week. I suddenly developed shortness of breath, I could barely walk two seconds without being out of breath. Thinking it was one of those symptoms of late pregnancy, I didn’t take it seriously until the 14th of April when I could barely breathe, and couldn’t lift my head up.

“I was rushed to a nearby clinic, they couldn’t handle me, so I was taken to my hospital where I was admitted and placed on oxygen. The doctors told my husband we should opt for CS, as I and my unborn child were at risk. My husband said no, that I’d definitely deliver naturally. He insisted he had no money for CS and that they should work on stabilising my breathing. So for three days, I was on oxygen and feeling better. Seeing that I was responding to treatment, my husband went around and insisted I should be discharged against the doctor’s advice.”

Ubangha said she became weak to argue with her husband whose insistence led her to be discharged from the hospital.

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She however noted that she developed breathing problems again after she arrived home, adding that her husband thereafter bought a herbal drink which he asked her to drink to make her baby’s head turn for natural delivery.

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She further narrated she was in so much pain that she drank only for the pain to intensify while she struggled so much till about 1 am in the morning when she couldn’t take it anymore.

She said, “I cried out, my neighbours came running and I was again rushed to the hospital, admitted and placed on oxygen. While my doctors determined what to do, my husband insisted he had no money for a cesarean section. All these while, I was spending my life’s savings on medications, this and that tests.”

“This dragged on until the morning of 29th April, I was broken, my baby wasn’t moving, my breathing wasn’t good, I couldn’t push and my baby’s position was beached. I cried out on Facebook where a kind Samaritan sent me 500k to pay for CS and whatever else I might need afterwards.”

On how her husband allegedly squandered the money Ubangha said, “I immediately sent the sum of 180k and an additional 60k so he could pay for the surgery and whatever we might need. He took the money and spent it instead on a phone and bought a dog while I was battling with life, thinking he was paying.

She said, “We waited from 10 am when I gave him the money to about 2 pm, Doctors were shouting, time was running out, I had to call his sister, counted another N180,000 and gave her, she’s the one who paid. He came at 6 pm when I was being wheeled into the theatre. I could hear both of them fighting, the sister threatening to arrest him.”

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Ubangha who eventually gave birth through a cesarean section alleged that her husband had abandoned her, as she was left with her newborn baby girl and her aged mother at the hospital.

Ubangha explained that she was stranded having spent all she had on the medical bills and food, and appealed to the public for help to save her.

In a picture attached to the post, the nursing mother could be seen with a swollen leg

“First diagnosis was that I had peripartum cardiomyopathy. I’ve done ECKG, chest X-ray and a series of other blood tests that I’m waiting for a report on. Whatever the outcome, I will need every help I can get. I need about 500k to help with whatever treatment plan and to help facilitate my discharge process,” she added.

Ubangha explained that she was stranded having spent all she had on the medical bills and food, and appealed to the public for help to save her.

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In a picture attached to the post, the nursing mother could be seen with a swollen leg

“First diagnosis was that I had peripartum cardiomyopathy. I’ve done ECKG, chest X-ray and a series of other blood tests that I’m waiting for report on. Whatever the outcome, I will need every help I can get. I need about 500k to help with whatever treatment plan and to help facilitate my discharge process,” she added.

Efforts to reach the hospital proved abortive as all the contact numbers they provided on their website did not connect. A message sent to their mail had yet to be replied to as of the time this report was filed.

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NACA Hosts first HIV prevention conference in Nigeria

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The National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), has hosted the first ever Nigeria HIV Prevention Conference in the country.

The Minister of State for Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Tunji Alausa, emphasized the critical importance of prevention and combating the disease, echoing the sentiment, “Prevention is better than cure.”

The conference with the theme: “Accelerating HIV Prevention to End AIDS through Innovations and Community Engagement” is a high-level event held in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city from 7th May to 9th May, 2024.

The conference will showcase diverse sessions, including dedicated tracks on youth empowerment under the theme “Adolescents and Young People (AYP) as Change Agents,” community engagement sessions, leadership discussions, plenary sessions, sponsored sessions, and special sessions.

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The conference’s objectives include optimizing innovative HIV prevention approaches towards achieving epidemic control, promoting equitable and inclusive human rights-based approaches to HIV Prevention, and strategizing for increased domestic funding towards community ownership and sustainability of HIV prevention programmes.

He highlighted the urgent need to curb new infections, especially among vulnerable populations.

The Minister of State for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Tunji Alausa represented by the Director and Senior Technical Assistant to the Minister of State for Health, Dr. David Atuwo said President Tinubu’s unwavering commitment to improving healthcare access for all Nigerians sets a powerful tone for the conference.

“His vision, articulated through the Health Sector Evolution Project, aims to ensure equitable, efficient, and quality healthcare services for every citizen, regardless of HIV status. The focus on prevention aligns with global efforts to achieve the 95-95-95 targets by 2030, as outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” he said.

The conference serves as a platform for discussing and evaluating prevention strategies tailored to Nigeria’s socio-cultural landscape.

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Dr. Alausa emphasized the need to leverage effective interventions and best practices while fostering ownership and sustainability in the national HIV response.

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“With a call for collective action, including support from healthcare professionals, civil society organizations, and those affected by HIV, the goal of an AIDS-free Nigeria becomes attainable.

“As the conference progresses, all eyes are on the outputs and implementation of selected strategies. President Bola Tinubu’s anticipation of a future where no child is born HIV-positive in Nigeria underscores the stakes, with concerted efforts and collaboration, the nation stands poised to turn the tide against HIV/AIDS, setting the stage for a healthier and more prosperous future,” he said.

In his goodwill message, the Chairman of the House Committee on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (ATM), Amobi Ogah, emphasized that Nigeria must reduce reliance on foreign donors to combat the HIV epidemic.

Hon. Ogah said this can only be achieved if the federal and state governments increased budgetary allocations to the health sector.

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“NACA must aim to expand treatment centres in the country to 300 by the end of 2024, it is important to involve the National Assembly in programmes to ensure ownership and awareness,” he said.

In her welcome address, the Director-General of (NACA), Dr Temitope Ilori said the gathering marks a significant milestone in the country’s collective efforts to combat HIV/AIDS.

She said notable progress has been made, “Shaping our response and strategies to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in our country.

“I extend heartfelt appreciation to all our partners whose support has made this conference possible. It is a testament to the power of collaboration and shared commitment towards a common goal,” she said.

She acknowledges the PEPFAR team for their support in providing the venue and facilitating the youth conference and to UNAIDS for their generous seed grant.

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The Director-General also acknowledges the unwavering support and visionary leadership of President Bola Tinubu in creating an enabling environment and allocating resources for this conference.

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Dr Ilori said the theme for the conference underscores the importance of community involvement in shaping effective prevention strategies while ensuring access to treatment for those living with HIV/AIDS.

She noted that from 2016 to the present, NACA has adopted diverse strategies including combination prevention therapy, HIV self-testing, harm reduction initiatives, treatment as prevention, and the reassessment of Nigeria’s HIV epidemic through the NAIIS in 2018, among other measures.

“However, despite our achievements, our work is far from over. We must redouble our efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission and strive for an AIDS-free generation by 2030, leveraging the advancements in health technology at our disposal,” she said.

She added that stigma and discrimination remain significant barriers to achieving the set goals by 2030.

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“We must educate and sensitize people about the harmful effects of stigma and discrimination against individuals living with HIV/AIDS, our strategies must be inclusive, person-centred, and sensitive to the needs of adolescents, young people, key populations, and people living with HIV/AIDS,” she added.

In his goodwill message, the UNAIDS Country Director, Dr Leo Zekeng highlighted the commitment made in 2021 to reduce new HIV infections by 83 per cent in 2025.

Dr Zekeng expressed optimism about Nigeria’s capability to address this challenge but identified several obstacles, including the lack of political leadership commitment to prevention, inadequate state government investment, and funding limitations.

Zekeng emphasized the need to scale up investment in prevention kits and address challenges such as data collection, legal and political environments, and community engagement.

He urged participants to explore innovative strategies during the conference to curb new infections and assured UN support in these efforts.

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In his goodwill message, the National Coordinator, National AIDS and STDs Control Programme (NASCP), Bashorun Adebobola, said it is important to recognize the imperative of decentralization in the country’s efforts.

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Dr Adebobola said it’s essential to intensify leadership at the sub-regional level to ensure effective implementation of prevention strategies.

He said NASCP is fully committed, alongside SACA, to ensuring that the conference culminates into tangible outcomes and actionable points that will drive meaningful progress in our fight against HIV.

The National Coordinator of the Association of Women Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (ASWHAN), Esther Hindi, emphasized the critical importance of the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) programme as a pivotal step toward ending transmission.

Hindi highlighted the need for inclusivity in the current era, particularly in empowering women to understand and address their challenges.

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She also advocated for the empowerment of women, highlighting the transformative impact it has on both individuals and nations.

The representative of the National Coordinator of the Association of Positive Youths in Nigeria (APYIN) Aaron Sunday passionately called on stakeholders to join hands in collaboration with young people living with HIV.

Sunday emphasized the vital role of continuous support, highlighting the positive outcomes yielded by NACA’s Technical Working Groups in identifying numerous young individuals.

Additionally, He appealed for sustained backing to empower youth and enhance their education, enabling them to navigate life-changing decisions more effectively.

In his heartfelt goodwill message, the National Coordinator of the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), Abdulkadir Ibrahim affirmed the network’s unwavering support for NACA’s pursuit of its objectives.

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Ibrahim emphasized the importance of collaborative efforts, highlighting challenges in Nigeria’s data management system.

He stressed the critical need for unity among stakeholders to advocate for government and partner support.

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