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Nigeria Working to Implement Comprehensive Sexuality Education as Part of HIV Prevention

Sexual and reproductive health and rights advocates in Nigeria are preparing themselves to defend their HIV-prevention programs as the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) begins to fund prevention programs that may clash with already established efforts. A new SIECUS publication, Establishing Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Lessons and Inspiration from Nigeria, sets out the conditions of young people's sexual and reproductive health in Nigeria and outlines in-country efforts to respond by implementing comprehensive sexuality education

Despite low prevalence rates relative to other countries in Africa , the sheer size of the Nigerian population makes the absolute number of people living with HIV/AIDS very high: current estimates are that over 4 million Nigerians are living with HIV/AIDS.1 Nigeria is one of the 15 focus countries under PEPFAR, receiving unprecedented funding for HIV/AIDS-related prevention, treatment, and care. Such help is desperately needed, however, PEPFAR funds are highly restrictive. Under PEPFAR, abstinence messages and marriage promotion are the primary effort to help individuals protect themselves against infection.

Educators and public health experts working in Nigeria , however, have focused on implementing comprehensive sexuality education in the schools. The Family Life and HIV/AIDS Education Program, part of the nation's strategy to combat HIV/AIDS, was developed in partnership with community organizations that have years of experience working with the young people of Nigeria . This curriculum development followed the creation and official adoption of the Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Nigeria . The Guidelines, which were also developed by a broad coalition of expert organizations, are based on SIECUS' U.S. Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education; K-12 and SIECUS assisted with the in-country effort.

In a country of more than 250 ethnicities, cultures and languages, the program is designed to be adapted according to the specific needs of each of the 37 Nigerian states.2 The program runs from primary school through university and focuses on such core issues as self-esteem and the ways boys and girls relate to each other, while also providing factual information about their bodies, pregnancy, and disease.3 According to Babatunde Osotimehin, chairman of the National Action Committee on AIDS in Nigeria , “only by educating Nigerians at an early age and in a comprehensive way will we begin to end the patterns of violence and sexual coercion, early marriage, and unsafe sexual behavior. This approach can help young people to respect and protect each other and, eventually, to help their own children.”4

For more information on the Guidelines please see Establishing National Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education, Lessons and Inspiration from Nigeria.

References

  1. “HIV/AIDS in Nigeria Today,” Journalists Against AIDS (22 August 2005), accessed 22 August 2005, <http://www.nigeria-aids.org>.
  2. Babatunde Osotimehin, “The Other Half,” the New York Times, 19 August 2005.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.

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