HIV response in Nigeria buckles under pressure of continued conflict with Boko Haram

02 May 2018

New comparison reveals significant drops in HIV service provision, as Nigeria’s Borno State feels the impact of years of armed conflict with Boko Haram.  

woman in headscarf walks down busy street in Nigeria

North-Eastern, Borno State has been the centre of Boko Haram’s insurgency in Nigeria over the last decade. Previously a front-runner in antiretroviral treatment coverage, armed conflict has seen Borno State’s HIV response fall far behind the rest of the country.

A recent article published in The Lancet analyses national health sector performance data to reveal the effects years of terrorism have on the HIV response in this area. Comparing 2013 to 2016 reveals stark drops in HIV service provision.

Facilities providing HIV testing and prevention of mother-to-child-transmission have fallen by 57%, from 21 facilities in 2013 to just nine in 2016.

Similarly, antiretroviral treatment coverage in the area has fallen by 18%, with annual drops in the number of people accessing antiretrovirals (ARVs) of 41.2%.

The researchers reveal how conflict has led to the unavailability of health care services, with the 11 centres providing ARVs in 2013 falling to just nine in 2016.

Although HIV incidence in Borno State has not risen, progress in HIV prevention has failed to keep pace with the rest of Nigeria. With an annual reduction of just 8.4%, the state has had the slowest rate of decline in the region – indicating that conflict has hampered progress in this area too.

These indirect health effects add to the wider devastation the region has faced at the hands of Boko Haram.

The researchers recognise that to get the HIV response back on track a concerted effort from the Nigerian Government, civil society, and international organisations is needed to restore peace and stability in Borno State.

They note that providing proper access to HIV prevention, treatment and care, will also be imperative in the post-conflict phase as often HIV infections rise during these periods.

The conflict continues in the region with recent reports that dozens of people were killed in a suicide bomb near a market in Mubi – a city in neighbouring Adamawa State.

Photo credit:
istock/Peeter Viisimaa

Written by Francesca Harrington-Edmans

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