As Nigerians join the rest of the world to mark Valentine’s Day tomorrow, the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) has cautioned young people against risky sexual behaviours.
The Director General, NACA, Dr. Gambo Aliyu, who made this known in a statement made available to THISDAY yesterday, said Nigerians, especially young people to take advantage of the spirit of love and togetherness that Valentine’s Day signifies, to know their HIV status.
He said: “It is important that all Nigerians know their HIV status, as it marks the entry point to prevention, treatment and care of HIV/AIDS.
“A young person not tested may not have the opportunity to enjoy future Valentine’s Days if he or she is diagnosed late or presents with terminal complications related to HIV infection and AIDS.
“This period is particularly noted for young people expressing their love for one another. This could lead to impulsive decisions such as unprotected sex resulting in unplanned pregnancies and an increased risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS.”
The DG NACA urged Nigerians, especially the youths, to express love within the context of caring deeply for their loved ones and avoid risky behavior that will make them vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and other STDs.
The DG noted that first sexual contact among youths in Nigeria begins at less than 15 years for 15 per cent of Nigerian youths.
It is gathered that based on the NAIIS draft report, HIV prevalence among sampled number of youths is 0.5 per cent which recorded highest among females between age 15-24 years at 0.8 per cent while males of the same age bracket stood at 0.2 per cent.
This, coupled with the practice of having multiple sexual partners, increases HIV vulnerability among the youth population alongside the very low HIV testing rates
Aliyu said only 17 per cent of young people know their HIV status, adding that it was important to reduce this worrying trend among Nigerian youths by encouraging faithful relationships for those who cannot abstain from sex, and the use of barrier protection such as condoms, which prevent STDs including HIV and unwanted pregnancies.
“As we express love on this day, remember to love wisely. As members of the wider society, your health and productivity is vital to the future of our country. So, I urge you to avoid risky behaviors as we commemorate Valentine’s Day. Love wisely, share love not HIV,” he added.