|Some of the HIV patients at the hospital|
In 2013, 23,719 pregnant women enrolled for the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV in Nasarawa State. By October 2015, the number of pregnant women seeking same treatment was 175,755.
In this two-part story, report that aversion to condoms, unsafe s*x among other factors are increasing the spread of HIV/AIDS in the state
No one knew the source of his sickness or what was wrong with him. From getting unusually weak on the football field after few minutes of playing to missing other matches, Badamasi Uba, an up-and-coming soccer star in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, suddenly faded into oblivion.
After exhausting many treatment options for his sickness, sometimes through repeated and stronger medications with no result, Uba in 2014, was advised to go for HIV test which showed that he was positive. The result marked a turning point in his life.
He gradually began his journey of recovery by using ante-retroviral drugs.
Going down memory lane, Uba says he was reckless with his s*x life. “I remember it was always ‘gikin-de-gikin’ (s*x without condoms) with a lady I was in love with. So, I won’t be surprised if I got it through unprotected s*x.
“Then, I decided not to use a condom because if I used a condom, I won’t enjoy the sex and it means I don’t really like the lady. Sex with condoms seems unnatural,” he told Sunday Punch.
Another HIV patient, 41-year-old mother of four, Mrs. Hannah (not real name), told our correspondents that the men she had affairs with detested condoms.
“After my husband died, I was in other relationships. They (men) will say they don’t enjoy s*x with condom. After I contracted HIV, one man insisted he must have sex with me without using a condom but I refused. He never knew I was HIV positive and that I was only trying to protect him,” she said in an interview with Sunday Punch.
Uba and Hannah’s stories represent a threatening trend as aversion to condom and casual sex have become the norm in Nasarawa State, ranked among the top four states in Nigeria worst hit by the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus.
According to the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, Nigeria has the third highest burden of HIV/AIDS in the world with an HIV prevalence of 3.4 per cent while it is second in Africa after South Africa. Among the states worst affected by the disease in Nigeria, Nasarawa is unique because the state has consistently recorded antenatal care HIV zero-prevalence rate higher than the country’s zonal and national average.
Gikin-de-gikin, a Hausa phrase which translates literally as “skin to skin”, is a popular expression in the state. The phrase is used by the locals to mean sex without condoms. This dangerous sex habit, which has become the fad with a cultural backing to it, is one of the major pitfalls of checking the spread of HIV in the state.
Also commonly referred to as fata-de-fata among the locals, many residents of the state admitted that they were not at ease with condom during s*x, hinting that using it would deprive them of maximum sexual satisfaction.
According to them, using condom during sex make it “looks unnatural.”
Many of the residents prefer to take chances and get treatments for HIV in the hospital if they contract the dreaded virus. Although this act portends great danger for the state, efforts to nip it in the bud has been poorly coordinated as most residents take solace in the expression, “God cares.”
Adamu Danjuma, a 40-year-old farmer, said before he contracted the dreaded virus, he never knew there was anything called condom.
While sharing his story with our correspondents, he said, “In 2009, I fell sick. I was confused and didn’t know what was wrong with me. My family was disturbed and I was taken to a hospital and a test was conducted; the result showed I have HIV. Before then, I never knew what condom meant. My belief is that God cares.”
The immediate past state Chairman of the Nigeria Medical Association, Dr. Friday Omolei, says aversion to condom is harmful and condemned the unsafe sex habits of the residents.
The former NMA boss advised residents of the state, especially those who are not married, to desist from casual s*x.
“Those who cannot be faithful to their partners should desist from having sex without condoms. Aside from pregnancy which is not planned for, such individuals who have sexual intercourse risk contracting HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and gonorrhea,” he said
The Executive Director, Nasarawa State AIDS Control Agency, Dr. Zakari Umar, said the state recorded an increase in the number of pregnant women enrolling for Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV, otherwise known as PMTCT, from 23,719 in 2013 to over 175,755 by October 2015.