Is the prevalence of HIV wrongly estimated in Nigeria? Some insights from a 2017 World AIDS day experience from a Nigerian Non-Governmental Organisation
Introduction: HIV is still a major public health challenge, especially in resource-limited settings. In Nigeria, it is estimated that over 50% of those infected with HIV do not know their status. With the recent Nigerian governmental approval of a "Test and Start Strategy", we embarked on HIV testing and services in four defined locations to mark 2017 World AIDS Day. The aim of this report is to document the process and outcome of the exercise. Methods: four teams led by senior clinical associates implemented the services and were mandated to test at least 100 persons per location. At each location, we carried out the following activities: (1) short advocacy to community leaders, (2) HIV testing and counselling, (3) disclosure of results, post-test counselling and healthy life-style education and (4) distribution of free male condoms and Information, Education and Communication (IEC) material. Results: a total of 237 people (male 195, female 42) were tested, the majority of whom were between 19 and 49 years (93.7%). Two people were found to be positive, giving a 0.84% positivity rate. Informal interactions between service providers and the people tested revealed that people were aware of HIV as a public health problem, and people positively received HIV services. Although there is a selection bias, as those tested will not be truly representative of the population, the current positively rate of less than 1% is low compared to previous Nigerian estimates, which are based on antenatal testing. However, the exercise showed a willingness to be tested and fair knowledge of HIV as a problem. Population-based data from across Nigeria should be aggregated to determine community prevalence pending the National population-based HIV survey in 2018. Such information will inform evidence-based decisions on the necessity of such large-scale surveys in future years. Conclusion: there is an urgent need to define the real prevalence of HIV in Nigeria through a well planned and executed community based survey.