Nigerian HIV survey – young women are most affected

26 March 2019

More robust data on Nigeria’s HIV epidemic provides new insights that can help target HIV resources.

woman in headscarf walks down busy street in Nigeria

Young women aged 20-24 in Nigeria are three times more likely to be living with HIV than men of the same age. In this group, HIV prevalence was 1.3% compared to 0.4% in men according to a newly published Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS), one of the largest population-based HIV/AIDS household surveys ever conducted.

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The survey also revealed that across most age groups, women fared worse than men. An estimated 1.9% of females were living with HIV versus 1.1% of males, with women aged 35-39 and men aged 50-54 having the highest prevalence, at 3.3% and 2.3% respectively.

In children under 15, new data tells us that prevalence is 0.2%, thanks to successful prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programmes. Isaac F. Adewole, Nigeria’s Minister of Health, stated, “Everyone infected with HIV needs to get treatment so they can achieve viral suppression, especially pregnant women. We must ensure pregnant women have access to antenatal services and are tested during every pregnancy. We know we can support HIV-positive mothers, hence ensuring the next generation is free from HIV.”

Antiretroviral treatment programmes have reached three times as many people from 2010 to 2017, up from 360,000 people in 2010 to more than 1 million people in 2018. But less than half of people living with HIV in Nigeria were virally suppressed, an important marker for HIV treatment effectiveness and to eliminate onward transmission of HIV. Global targets call for 90% of people living with HIV and on treatment to be virally suppressed by 2020, but viral suppression among people living with HIV aged 15–49 stands at 42.3% (45.3% among women and 34.5% among men).

“It is important that all people living with HIV get treatment and achieve viral suppression. To halt the epidemic, we need to act now,” said Sani Aliyu, Director-General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS. “As a government working with our partners, we have what it takes to support people who are HIV-positive, to provide treatment, to protect their families and to help people live long and healthy lives.”

Compared to previous estimates, the national prevalence has fallen from 2.8% to 1.4%, a decline that has been put down to better surveillance.

“For the first time ever in Nigeria, we have robust data that tell us where HIV is concentrated; viral suppression among people living with HIV; the gaps in the HIV response by geography, gender, and age; and what HIV policies and focused resources are needed,” said Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, M.D., U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. The survey was conducted with funding from PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Photo credit:
istock/Peeter Viisimaa

Written by Caitlin Mahon

Content Specialist - HIV & Sexual Health