Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Debilitating effects of HIV/AIDS on Nigerian Women and Children

Debilitating effects of HIV/AIDS on Nigerian Women and Children

HIV/AIDS has emerged as one of the greatest pandemic which hunts everyone, not sparing the weakest of all, women and children. At present, the most recent HIV sero-prevalance survey shows that women aged 15 – 49 years, constitute 56 percent of the 4.74 million infected, (Adekeye, 2005) with quite a number who have given birth to babies that have become infected also. Others who had the virus after birth have had to battle with the challenge alone, due to the devastating effect it has on them. Women are more prone to contracting HIV because of certain factors. One important factor is biological, which explains the physiological characteristics of women, the general vulnerability of women partly accounts for a wide range of female reproductive health problems, and variation in socio-economic and political status by gender. These have emerged as some of the factors responsible for increasing the spread of HIV infection among Nigerian women.

Children, on the other hand, can also be infected by HIV/AIDS. They are particularly affected if one or both parents are infected and the effect of HIV/AIDS is greatly felt by those orphaned by AIDS, because they have to face life’s challenges without their parents. Apart from grief, depression, dependency on others and denial of basic necessities, children orphaned by AIDS are often stigmatized and discriminated due to fear surrounding AIDS by people around them. Many of these orphans are therefore forced into exploitative situations such as prostitution, robbery and other evil acts which could get them infected as well, and even land them in jail or expose them to risks that may cut short their lives. The HIV/AIDS endemic toll on the number of school age children is very alarming, because the scourge decreases the rate of growth of the school age population.

Also HIV positive women have reduced fertility and mother-to-child transmission of the virus, which means increase in child mortality rate. HIV-Positive women have significantly more negative pregnancy outcomes, such as spontaneous abortions and still-births, than uninfected women. This is likely to further decrease the number of children 0-5 years of age in the households (Chomba and Piot, 1994). Women who are infected with the virus, are also regarded as child bearers, child rearers and care givers, they bear the brunt of the impact of HIV/AIDS, as they are responsible for their sick children or spouse. They are also saddled with the responsibility of caring for orphaned and vulnerable children. This is often a difficult role and task for women to perform.
Further more, the effect of HIV/AIDS on children relates to the projected increase in AIDS orphan hood and school dropouts. These may contribute to increased child labour, as children enter the work force at even younger age in search of financial support (Lisk, 2002).
In order to control HIV/AIDS and its effects on women and children, women’s vulnerability should be checked by passing and enforcing laws against gender discrimination, empowering women economically, improving access of girls to education and provision of basic necessities for the orphans.

Ikeoluwa AWE

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