Young people have the highest prevalence of HIV in the world , more than any other group. To reverse this trend ,  it is important to understand some of the issues that fuel the rise of HIV among young people.  Steve Aborisade, a renowned journalist and HIV/AIDS advocate, gives us an insight in the article below….

They stand out; they always do, flaunting the latest Smartphones, and usually gorgeously dressed on Campuses and off it, across the country. Some ride in the very latest automobiles and usually, as students’ seldom attends classes. Holidays in Dubai, London and elsewhere is a constant feature of their lives. They are so familiar with the architecture of the very top 5-star hotels from constant fun filled weekends observed there. They are classy, and call themselves ‘big girls’. A scroll on their phone reveals numbers of men of power and influence, or of aides to our so called big men acting as pimps.  In government circles, top business events and other A-list social gatherings, they are a constant that must be present on the servings. They maintain registers at top rest-houses, and know when and where the biggest parties are taking place in town. I must not forget to add that other young women admire, and, dutifully aspire to be just like them. Please, enter the Nigeria ‘RUNS GIRLS’ or more appropriately, campus prostitution rings.

 On and off campuses, it has become a fad, and really an accepted pastime, for young girls to date strings of older, richer men. It is also a common thing to find hordes of university undergraduates line the streets of popular red zones at night in search of sexual patrons. At their hostels on campus, you find pimps brandishing photo albums for you to flip through and make a choice. If you indicate interest, the lady of choice is yours for the taking, for the night or as you desire. Not surprising, majority of patrons are usually older, married, wealthy men called sugar daddies. New and growing addition to the list of patrons have come to include: ‘younger men, mostly ‘YAHOO BOYS’ (Nigeria’s growing club of advance fee fraudsters), who’s got the means, as well as white staff of multinationals, away from home and with cash, or young staff of banks, and the telecommunications companies, who are yet to marry and got cash to spend.’ But older, wealthy men remain the trophies.

In Nigeria, the older man with young girlfriend stereotype is an important aspect of the HIV-pandemic. Wait a moment; what can we blame this increasing phenomenon on, Poverty?

The 2011 Statistics on the HIV pandemic in Nigeria shows that young women are much more likely to be HIV-positive than their male counterparts. HIV rates in girls between the ages of 15 and 19 shows a constant percentage increase, more than those of boys of the same age. In the same survey, HIV prevalence among pregnant women of age 15-24 was highest among this group than any other group across the six geopolitical groupings of Nigeria.

It is important that apart from the physiological reasons that make women more susceptible to HIV, research continues to link sugar daddies for the many new HIV infections among young women. Intergenerational (where the man is more than 10 years older than the woman) and age-disparate relationships (where the age difference between the man and woman is more than five years) is now a common thing in our society.

 The likelihoods of unprotected sex

Seen as vital to the fuelling of the HIV-epidemic is result of research which indicated that for every year’s increase in the age difference between the partners, there is a 28% increase in the likelihood of an unprotected sex.

 There are a few reasons for engaging in unsafe sex. First and foremost, the partners usually views one another as being ‘low risk’ as far as HIV was concerned. The older men views the young women as being ‘clean’, perceiving them as being more likely to be free from HIV infection. On the other hand, the young women regarded the older men as ‘safe’ partners, appearing more responsible and less likely to take risks than young men.

Because of the age difference, young women are less likely to negotiate safe sex with an older man. In addition, the larger the economic gap between the partners, the less likely condom will be considered.

A high-risk game

But why are young women playing this high risk game? The obvious explanation for why this is happening is basically and purely financial. Older men are more likely to be employed and are therefore able to offer greater economical security than younger men. So, girls from poor backgrounds see wealthier older men as ‘meal tickets’, providing them with basic needs such as food, housing and clothing.

However, the answer is not that simple. Research shows that, even where women were relatively well-to-do, many still continue to be at risk. It was found that many ladies did not regard a relationship with an older man as a way of meeting their most basic economic needs. The older men were used as ‘recharge’: a source of money that boosted their access to designer clothes, the latest cell phones and trendy automobiles.

A girl riding an expensive car, or was seen on the arm of rich or influential men, or who attended the ‘right’ parties and mixed with the ‘right’ people, scored vital points in the social status game. It boosted young women’s confidence and self-esteem, as they would say, they got the ‘swag’ or ‘swagger’.

A girl that could attract the attention of a wealthy older man, maintain a relationship with him and use him as a passport to the ‘easy life’ was considered as possessing ‘swagger’ by her peers. Little wonder that older sexual partners have colloquial names such as ‘ATM’, ‘Maga’, and ‘Mungu’, ‘Muntula’ etc…..To be continued

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The 20th International AIDS Conference, which concluded in July, 2014, may have been marred by the loss of several scholars and activists on Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, but it still delivered some good news in the fight against the planet’s HIV epidemic. 


AIDS 2014


Here are some important things the conference taught us:


Waking up hidden HIV

Scientists revealed a new approach to getting rid of the HIV virus, called the “kick and kill” approach, using an anti-cancer drug to kick the virus out of where it is hiding in the body.

Dr Ole Schmeltz Sogaard from Denmark’s Aarhus University said he gave patients anti-cancer drugs which increased the production of HIV-infected cells more than three times above normal. The cells could then be traced and targeted with existing treatments. “We’ve now shown we can activate a hibernating virus with Romidepsin and that the activating virus moves into the bloodstream in large amounts,” Dr Sogaard said. “This is a step in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go and many obstacles to overcome before we can start talking about a cure against HIV.  


Promising bone marrow transplant

HIV-positive patients treated at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital were given a bone marrow transplant, which appeared to have cleared them of the virus. They now have undetectable levels of HIV but remain on antiretroviral therapy as a protective measure. Although the results were significant, experts stressed that bone marrow transplants were not a cure for HIV, as it remained a costly and a potentially dangerous procedure.


TB breakthrough reducing treatment times

The conference was told about a major breakthrough in treating tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis killed one in five people with HIV and remained the largest killer in the world of people with AIDS. Results of an international study showed a new combination of drugs meant that drug-resistant TB could be cured in as little as four months, instead of two years.


AIDS free generation ‘within reach’ – Bill Clinton

Former US president Bill Clinton declared that an AIDS-free generation was within reach, despite the fact that every year another 2 million people are infected with HIV.

But he said the international community had to get better at detecting the disease early.

“New data from 51 countries suggests 70 per cent of HIV-related deaths could have been prevented,” he said.

“The evidence continues to build that early treatment helps prevent further transmission.”

His speech was briefly interrupted by protesters calling for new taxes to support the fight against AIDS, which brings us to the next lesson.


More funding needed

Artist and poverty campaigner Bob Geldof slammed the world’s wealthiest countries over a “disgraceful” lack of HIV funding. He said while there had been incredible advances in the fight against HIV and AIDS in the past 30 years, the final steps were the most crucial.

According to UNAIDS, 19 of the 20 most-AIDS-affected countries were in Africa and 72 per cent of all people with HIV lived in the sub-Saharan region. Sir Bob criticised the foreign aid spending of wealthy countries, especially Australia, which planned to cut its contribution by $7.6 billion over the next five years.


PrEP really works at preventing infection if taken regularly

A new study called iPrEx OLE has further confirmed the effectiveness of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), HIV medication taken by people who do not currently carry the virus to prevent them from being infected. When taken regularly, PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV infection. The primary obstacle PrEP faces is whether a person takes it regularly. It’s prescribed as a daily regimen, and the study found it to be 100 percent effective among people who took it at least four times a week. Individuals who only took 2-3 doses per week had an efficacy rate of 84 percent, while those who took it less often were no more protected from the virus than if they weren’t taking it at all. When taken properly, it seems PrEP approaches perfection in preventing the transmission of HIV. The same study also found that taking PrEP did not lead users to take risks during sex.


Condoms could soon come with anti-HIV gel

The Australian biotech firm Starpharma has developed an antiviral compound called VivaGel that it hopes to introduce to condom lube to help kill HIV and some other sexually transmitted infections, reducing the risk of transmission. Tests have suggested it can deactivate up to 99.9 percent of virus cells. VivaGel is still undergoing trials in the U.S., so it’s not available yet, and there may be good reason to exercise caution. Other studies have found that the substance can be an irritant to the body, which would attract the very white blood cells most susceptible to HIV infection. Still, given condoms always have the possibility of failing, VivaGel could help compensate by further reducing the risk of infection.


HIV could be destroyed without harm to the infected cells

At Temple University, researchers took a different approach to attacking HIV head on. They have created a protein combo that is capable of targeting and attaching itself to the HIV in a cell’s DNA. It cuts out the infected part, allowing the cell to repair itself and become healthy again. The “gene surgery” technique is still years away from successful human implementation. Though it’s proven effective on human cells, animal testing is just now beginning. Researchers will have to develop a method to administer the treatment in a way that reaches every infected cell and that can individualized to combat different mutations of the virus. The technique could ultimately prove useful in fighting other viruses.


Compiled with Agency reports