By Lola Seriki- Idahosa, Kaduna, NorthWest, Nigeria
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has mapped out strategies to end AIDS epidemic among Adolescents and youths persons by 2030, saying that one of their supported eliminating of MTCT slates by 2020.
This was disclosed by Dr. Idris Baba HIV Specialist, UNICEF in A One-day Media Executives, Reporters and Producers Meeting on Adolescents and Young Persons (AYP) Support in Kaduna State, organised by UNICEF in conjunction with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) in Zaria on Friday, August 10, 2018.
Dr. Idris Baba said that for now millions of women, children and Adolescents are still not being reached, saying that an Adolescent girl is newly infected with HIV every three minutes.
According to him, “during 2017, 180,000 children under 15 were newly infected with HIV, nearly 91% in sub- Saharan Africa” An estimated 1.8 million adolescents (10-19 years old) were living with HIV worldwide in 2017, Only 1/2 of HIV exposed babies are tested for HIV within the recommended time period, 3 million children aged 0-19 living with HIV and half (52 percent) of children under 15 are accessing ART.
He said that some of the major drivers of the epidemic among AYPs in Nigeria is multiple and concurrent sexual partners, intergenerational sex , sexual coercion, low risk perception,
Others includes, “pervasive gender inequalities and gender- based violence, poverty, unemployment or underemployment And widespread HIV – Related stigma and discrimination,
Early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation and widow inheritance, ineffective sexually transmitted infection (STI) programming, poor integration of HIV and SRH services ”
He said that one of the steady number of deaths due to AIDS, combined with a growing population of the world’s children aged 0 to 19 (projected to increase To 2.7billion by 2030), requires partners in the HIV response for children and adolescents to refocus efforts and redouble investments”
Dr. Idris Baba also disclosed that an estimated 420,000 pregnant women; HIV prevalence of 2.2% (HSS 2014) and an estimated 18,800 adolescents are living with HIV as at 2016′
“Kaduna is one of the UNICEF supported States piloting elimination of mother to child transmission (eMTCT) and adolescents HIV intervention in Nigeria
“PMTCT coverage had steady risen from 16% in 2012 to 61% in 2017, the target is to achieve 90% coverage by 2020”
Some of the recommendations that can end AIDS epidemic by 2030 according to Dr. Idris Baba, includes, UNICEF should advocate for replacement of key program especially the SAPC,
“Remote program implementation in security challenged areas and UNICEF should continue to support KADSACA to provide means of identification such as ID cards or reflective jackets (branded) to the voluntees”
He said that the major challenges is inadequate quality Human Resources to Support implementation of program at state level delays.
Also in a paper presentation titled: Role of Media As Advocates Addressing AYP To Make Right Choices, “The former Managing Director of Kaduna State Media Corporation, Tamani Yusuf has said that Media can greatly influence Idolescents and youths in making the right choices.
She said there is need for the media to influence the choices that the Adolescents and Young Persons (AYPs) make, through the positive programming and news items they present.
“AYPs are influenced greatly by what they see on television, social media and what they hear on radio,” she said.
Speaking further, she said that the media can serve as a big motivator for AYPs.
“Motivate AYPs to know that if they can dream it, they can achieve it.
“Raise public awareness on the importance of parents making their children their friends, so that their children can discuss openly with them.
“Parents need to be connected to their children. Encourage parents to know the type of friends their children/wards keep.
“Impact moral values and morals education so that the ago cannot be influenced by peer pressure to imbibe negative habits.
“Parents need to inculcate strong religious, social and cultural values. Parents need to be good role models. and inspire AYPs to dream big,” she stressed.
She said that issues adolescents struggle with include depression, school drop outs, peer pressure, mood swings as a result of hormonal changes, friendship, coping with stress, teenage pregnancy and anxiety.
“There is the need to share experiences with them so that they can tap into wisdom of other people who shared a similar challenge.”
Speaking further, she said that the media has a mandate to arm AYPs with values to help them stand against corruption and other issues.
“They need to be guided on what is right in terms of justice, patriotism, honesty, truth and good morals.
“AYPs should be encouraged that in the face of obstacles, they must not give up.
“Media must encourage parents to teach AYPs right values, how to spend their time, monitoring their smart phones, how many hours they watch television and how they use their computers.
“Parents must teach AYPs to be well disciplined at home and in school knowing what he/she is supposed to do at every point in time,” she added.
Yusuf charged the media to initiate programmes on dangers of drug abuse, HIV and other issues as well as develop jingles in different languages.
Also A Consultant on Child Protection and Adolescence Specialist, Faruk A. Chiromari stated in his paper presentation titled Common Problems and Criticality to Support Adolescents’, at the Meeting on Preventing Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) and Adolescents and Young Persons (AYP) Support in Kaduna State, said it is important to guide and redirect adolescents On roles expected from them in the family and society to prevent them from making wrong choices.
He explained that without guidance teenagers may become pregnant before they are ready, adding that they may also get infected with Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), as well as Te dreaded HIV.
“Find time to talk with them, let them know that there is safe sex. You have to talk to them about the consequences of unprotected sex. They may act on impulse as a result of hormonal changes,” he said.
Chiromari said that addiction to cyberspace also cuts short their physical activities, resulting in an unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle.
“Internet addiction adversely impacts academic activities. Even though they may use the internet for research and learning, they may delve into other areas. Hence do not say no to Internet, but observe and track what they are using the Internet for. You have to redirect their usage of the internet,” he said.
The expert said that no matter what you tell AYPs in schools, churches or mosques, they end up following their role models.
” Don’t let your children get the wrong role models, be their role models by being friendly with them,” he added.
He explained that aggression among boys is noticed during adolescence, when the young boys develop muscles, warning that at such times, it is expected that they are prevented from access to firearms and alcohol, as well as from violent movies.
On some clues on how to know if AYPs are indulging in drugs, he said that “When they sleep too much or too little, it means something is not right. If they are doing drugs, you as a parent might be thinking your child is always indoors and of good character. It may be as a result of drugs. Drugs can make adolescent sleep too much or too little.
“Similarly, when a child all of a sudden starts eating too much or too little, there might be as a result of drugs,” he added.
Chiromari further said that as a female child notices changes in her body, she may be worried if not properly counseled ahead.
“She may come back from school when first menstruation comes and she sees blood, she may think she is injured and may find it difficult to express what she is going through,” he said.
He cautioned against spying on children, saying it could be counter productive.
“Do not spy on your children, but let them know you are checking up on them to improve on their well being, like checking their toilets to find out if it is clean or not.”
He charged media practitioners to always be at the forefront of providing information that can transform AYPs.