UNODC Seeks to Curb HIV Prevalence in Nigeria’s Custodial Centres

Abuja, 1 December 2020, WORLD AIDS DAY - Globally, HIV prevalence and new infections among the general population have drastically reduced. While low condom use, gender inequality and multiple sexual partners remain drivers of new infections, in many countries new infections are primarily driven by risk prone behaviours among key populations, including people who use drugs and people in custodial centres. The sharing of needles and other paraphernalia, drug use related high risk sexual behaviour as well as forced sex and unprotected sexual intercourse in custodial centres disproportionally increase the risk of HIV transmission.

As a result, HIV/AIDS prevalence in Nigeria’s custodial centres (2.8%) is almost twice as high as prevalence among the general population (1.8 %). One major concern is that HIV prevention and treatment services in the Nigerian Correctional Service are not well integrated into the national HIV response programmes and budgeting. This has considerably hampered the efforts to the global community moves towards ending the HIV epidemics by 2030.

As the world commemorates World AIDS Day, 39 years after the global AIDS epidemic started, this year celebration is unique in that it takes place in the midst of another highly infectious and dangerous pandemic – COVID-19. The outbreak and response to COVID-19 has shifted the attention and interventions of global stakeholders away from HIV, Hepatitis, and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Executive Director of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, Ghada Waly in her message on World AIDS Day stated that as “co-sponsor of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), UNODC works with partners in 38 countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America to support health for all by promoting evidence-based, human rights-centred, and gender-responsive HIV prevention, treatment and care services for people who use drugs and for people in prison”.

Waly added that, “to ensure the continuity and sustainability of HIV services during the COVID crisis, UNODC, in collaboration with WHO, UNAIDS and civil society, has developed guidance and put in place capacity building initiatives for policymakers, health, and criminal justice practitioners, prison authorities and civil society organizations”.

In Nigeria, UNODC is supporting the Government of Nigeria on HIV testing services, treatment and care in Nigeria custodial centres. Recently, UNODC held a workshop with the National AIDS & STIs Control Programme (NASCP) and other state and non-state partners to validate Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for providing HIV testing services (HTS) in custodial settings. The SOP will contribute to delivering rights-based provision of HIV testing services for people in custodial settings in Nigeria, with the global evidence that HTS play an important role in HIV prevention, treatment and care. Also, the development of HIV care and referral model to ensure proper care of inmates living with HIV during life in custodial centres and linkage to care in the community post-release is ongoing.

These interventions are aimed at leaving no one behind in the spirit of this year World AIDS Day theme, Global Solidarity and shared responsibility.