By Chinyere Amalu
Stakeholders at the just concluded 5th National HIV & AIDS conference have called for immediate scaling up of HIVÂ prevention strategies, saying it is the only way the fight against the disease couldÂ be won.
The 4-day conference, which was organized by Network for HIV & AIDS Research in Nigeria (NARN) in partnership with the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), with support from the United Nations system, the US Government, other developmentalÂ partners and civil society organisations believed that if prevention is prioritised, the spread of HIV would be controlled to the barest minimum.
In one of the sessions organized by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in collaboration with United National Development Programme (UNDP), Prof. Dennis Ityavyar the UNIFEM Research Consultant on Gender and HIV, outlined the status of women within the national response and highlighted the key determinants of HIV transmission in the context of culture and socio- economic issues.
According to him, â€œCultural practices have a fundamental role to play in HIV prevention, Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) and male involvement in reproductive health services.Â AÂ number of commonly observed traditional practices are now recognized as being directly responsible for the spread of HIV & AIDSâ€.
Also, the UNIFEM Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS Mrs. Cecile Mukarubuga also acknowledged that patriarchal culture in the African society has heavily influenced the legal systems, governance structures and value systems which uphold the unequal status of girls and women and fuel the spread of HIV.
She recommended that government, development partners and civil society organisations to adopt a multisectoral framework that would address not only medical, but also structural and socio-cultural factors that constrain individual actions.
In his presentation, the Director- General, NACA,Â Prof. John Idoko said there is a huge gap existing between prevention and treatment adding that until this gap is filled, the fight against HIV & AIDS will remain a tall dream.
According to him, Nigeria has low funding for prevention strategies and that 30 per cent funding on prevention is very low to reach out to people that need the information.
â€œIfÂ we donâ€™t have correct information to prevent the spread of the virus, there is no way the nation could move forward in tackling the scourge. If we do not do something urgent about taking messages of prevention to the rural communities, we are wasting our timeâ€, he added.