More young Nigerians are engaging in sex much earlier, the National Agency for the Control of AIDS has said.
According to the Director-General of NACA, Sani Aliyu, at least 15 per cent of Nigerian youth now lose their virginity before the age of 15.
The agency also raised an alarm that the Nigerian youth are increasingly engaging in unprotected sex and having multiple sexual partners.
The alarm was ahead of the Valentine’s Day on February 14, warning the youth to “Share love and not HIV,” according to a statement Tuesday by the spokesperson of the agency, Toyin Aderibigbe.
He said about 4.2 per cent of Nigerians between the ages of 15 and 24 have HIV.
“The first sexual contact in Nigeria begins at less than 15 years for 15 per cent of Nigeria’s youths. This, coupled with the practice of having multiple sexual partners, increases HIV vulnerability among the youth population alongside the very low HIV testing rates – only 17 per cent of young people know their HIV status”, the NACA boss said.
He said the Valentine period should not be seen as an opportunity for unbridled sexual intercourse.
“This period is particularly noted for young people expressing their love for one another. This could lead to impulsive decisions such as unprotected sex resulting in unplanned pregnancies and an increased risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.
“Nigerians, especially the youths should express love within the context of caring deeply for their loved ones and avoid risky behaviour that will make them vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and other STDs.”
Mr. Aliyu urged couples to seize the opportunity to check their HIV status.
He said it was important that all Nigerians should know their HIV status, as it marked the entry point to prevention, treatment and care of HIV/AIDS.
“A young person not tested may not have the opportunity to enjoy future Valentine’s Days if he or she is diagnosed late or presents with terminal complications related to HIV infection and AIDS.
“The new HIV infections are currently highest among young people aged 15-24 years. It is important to reduce this worrying trend among the Nigerian youths by encouraging faithful relationships for those who cannot abstain from sex, and the use of barrier protection such as condoms, which prevents STDs, including HIV and unwanted pregnancies,” he said.