Poverty can increase vulnerability to HIV infection —Experts

AIDS has decried the possible impact of HIV on the attainment of certain Sustainable Development Goals in Nigeria.

The SDGs are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

They are a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 for the year 2030. The SDGs are part of Resolution 70/1 of the United Nations General Assembly, otherwise known as the 2030 Agenda.

Speaking at a training session for the media on Wednesday, Dr. Amanze Ogbonna, of the Strategic Knowledge Management Department of NACA, gave an overview of the HIV Response in Nigeria, noting that in 2017, 3.1 million people were living with HIV in Nigeria, with 210,000 new infections and 150,000 HIV-related deaths by 2018, citing UNAIDS findings.

“Nigeria has the second highest HIV burden in the world,” Ogbonna noted, referencing the Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS), being the largest ever population-based HIV survey done in Nigeria in 2018.

NACA however warned that poverty can increase vulnerability to HIV infection, saying.

Expressing fear for women’s vulnerability, with particular attention to mother-child-transmission of HIV, experts say that unequal socioeconomic status of women compromises their ability to prevent HIV or mitigate the impact of AIDS.

The United Nations also noted that households affected by HIV are more vulnerable to falling into and remaining in poverty.

The world global body expressed concerns that, while global poverty rates have been cut by more than half since 2000, one in 10 people in developing regions such as Nigeria are still living with their families on less than the international poverty line of $1.90 a day, with millions more who make little more than this daily amount.

The UN laments that while significant progress has been made in many countries within Eastern and South-eastern Asia, up to 42 per cent of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa continues to live below the poverty line.

The World Health Organisation notes that poverty drives HIV epidemics, making prevention and treatment a herculean task for all concerned.

“Widespread poverty and unequal distribution of income that typify underdevelopment appear to stimulate the spread of HIV,” the WHO notes.

Similarly, the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) stated that “poverty, underdevelopment, the lack of choices and the inability to determine one’s own destiny fuel the HIV epidemic.”

Reviewing the evidence on how poverty leads people to high-risk behaviours, UNAIDS concluded that reducing poverty may be the only viable long-term response to tackling the epidemic.

Dr. Elise Riley, of the Department of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco and lead author of two studies that investigated the health of homeless people with HIV, warns that poverty is undermining advances in HIV medicine.

“When people have no home to shelter them or food to fill their bellies, getting and taking HIV medications may not be a priority — or even a possibility,” she said.

The researcher added that while it has been found that viral load and adherence to medications were strong predictors of overall health status, “unmet subsistence needs, such as access to sufficient housing, food, clothing and hygiene needs, had an even stronger influence on the health of people living with the virus.”

She suggested that, in order to control the epidemic, governments at all levels must ensure that stable housing and basic subsistence needs are met for all people living with HIV.

“To end AIDS, we need to ensure that people living with HIV have adequate housing, proper nutrition and access to HIV treatment,” Riley said.


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