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61% of New HIV Cases in Nigeria Occur Among Girls, Women, Official Says

March 31, 2008

An estimated 61% of new HIV cases in Nigeria occur among girls and women, Babatunde Oshotimehin, director-general of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, said recently at a one-day conference, the Vanguard/ reports.

According to Oshotimehin, women are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS because of their inability to speak out against some sexual practices that put them at risk of the disease. He added that the "gender distance" between men and women in Nigeria makes it difficult for women to protect themselves from contracting the virus. Oshotimehin said that the spread of HIV could be "easily tamed" if women were empowered to negotiate safer sex with their partners. He called on women in the country to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS, as well as gender inequality.

"Today, the burden of the disease in terms of care and support of those living with the virus is the responsibility of the women across our continent," Oshotimehin said, adding, "So when you look at the statistics, and you look at how the disease affects our women, it is important that we put women at the center of the control of this virus."

Ramatu Bala Usman, president of the National Council of Women Societies, at the conference said the involvement of women in the fight against HIV/AIDS will help reduce the spread of the disease. "It is in [women's] collective interest to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS because we are the most infected and affected." She added that NCWS is affiliated with 250 groups that can "carry the campaign to the grassroots." NCWS is "not just composed of educated elites but ... also include the uneducated women in the rural areas," Usman said, adding, "It is easier for us to penetrate the rural areas because we speak their language and they understand us more" (Shaibu, Vanguard/, 3/27).

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