According to amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, which is dedicated to ending the global AIDS epidemic through innovative research, in 2011 alone, an estimated 2.5 million people were newly infected with HIV; and out of these, 330,000 were under the age of 15.
Sad to say, everyday, nearly 7,000 people contract HIV — nearly 300 every hour.
And, despite the giant strides made in the fight against this disease, in 2011, 1.7 million people died from AIDS, and 230,000 of them were under the age of 15.
And if you must know, more than two-thirds (69 per cent) of all people living with HIV (23.5 million), live in sub-Saharan Africa, of which Nigeria is a part.
Ninety-one percent of the world's HIV-positive children are also found in the sub-Sahara. And in 2011, an estimated 1.8 million people in the region became newly infected.
An estimated 1.2 million adults and children died of AIDS, accounting for 71 per cent of the world's AIDS deaths in 2011.
Experts say since the beginning of the epidemic in the early 1980s, more than 60 million people, globally, have contracted HIV; and nearly 30 million have died of HIV-related causes.
If these statistics convey any message at all, it is this: HIV knows no border and anybody can be infected with it. Worse still is the huge number of young people who were indicated as victims of this disease. Indeed, experts fear that apart from young people who may have been born HIV-positive as a result of Mother-To-Child-Transmission, many young people contract the infectious disease through unprotected sex with someone already infected.
But then, medical experts tell us that though there's no cure for HIV/AIDS yet, when detected early, HIV can be managed and prevented from progressing to AIDS. The Director-General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, Prof. John Idoko, advises every sexually active person to regularly undergo HIV screening, so that they will know their HIV status.
Epidemiologist and Deputy Director, HIV/AIDS Division, Federal Ministry of Health, Mr. Segilola Araoye, recommends being tested at least once a year if you do things that can transmit HIV infection, such as injecting drugs or steroids with used injection equipment; having sex for money or drugs; having sex with an HIV infected person; having more than one sex partner since your HIV test; and having a sex partner who has had other sex partners since your last HIV test.
Experts say you are more likely to be infected with HIV if you have ever shared injection drug needles and syringes; have ever had sex without a condom with someone who had HIV; have ever had a sexually transmitted disease like Chlamydia or gonorrhoea; received a blood transfusion or a blood clotting factor between 1978 and 1985; and if you have ever had sex with someone who has done any of those things.
And if you happen to be one of those people who still dither about having HIV screening, here are the symptoms to look out for as you wonder whether or not you are HIV-positive.
The first one is fever. Family doctor, Eugene Osazie, says within a month or two of HIV entering the body, 40-90 per cent of people experience flu-like symptoms known as "acute retroviral syndrome." She also notes that sometimes, HIV may not manifest for years. "As such, many people may even be HIV-positive without being aware," she says.
She notes that such fever may be accompanied by certain symptoms such as fatigue, swollen lymph glands, and a sore throat, which may last for a few weeks. "By this time, the virus is moving into the blood stream and starting to replicate in large numbers," Osazie warns.
She also warns that when HIV enters the bloodstream, it begins to attack certain white blood cells known as CD4 cells — the specialised cells that are a part of our immune system. "The immune system then produces antibodies to fight off infection. When you take an HIV test, doctors are actually looking for the presence of these antibodies, which confirm that HIV infection has occurred," Osazie counsels.
Again, you should be worried if you now feel fatigued by simple activities that you were used to, such as walking; or if you feel pain in the joints and muscles, among others.
"One of the things that should ginger you up is when you start having swellings in the armpits, groin and neck, as these are some of the parts of the body where you have the lymph nodes.
"The lymph nodes are a sort of garrisons, as they act as filters for foreign particles and are important in the proper functioning of the immune system. When they are inflamed or swollen, therefore, it is an indication that something has gone wrong in the body, and only a competent medical screening can tell us what is cooking," Dr. David Anyaegbuna of DuCross Clinics, Festac Town, Lagos, says.
Sore throat and headaches are also things to worry about if you have been engaging in risky behaviours as outlined above, experts warn. Ditto unexplained rash or boils, Anyaegbuna says.
Physicians also say nausea, vomiting and constant stooling (diarrhoea), as well as weight loss should be a wake-up call for HIV screening, as these may be signs that the immune system is being depleted systematically.
Doctors also advise that if you have prolonged dry cough that has become resistant to regular antibiotics; or if you always have night sweats even when the weather is cool; or if you develop mouth ulcers or genital herpes, go for HIV screening.
The online portal, health.com, also warns that if the colour of the nail changes, or if it thickens, splits or becomes discoloured with black or brown lines, HIV may be responsible.
As HIV courses through the body, Anyaegbuna says, the virus damages the nerves. It is then people start having tingling in the hands and feet — otherwise known as "peripheral neuropathy," as you find among those who have diabetes.
Gynaecologists also warn that if, as a young or middle aged woman, you have fewer and lighter periods, it may be a manifestation of advanced HIV, which sometimes increases the incidence of menstrual irregularities.
Idoko agrees that those working in the field of HIV/AIDS need regular skills acquisition training. And in order to further equip resource persons, the Federal Ministry of Health, in collaboration with global bodies that include the World Health Organisation, holds regular stakeholders' meetings, during which workers are trained to better understand relevant issues.
At one of such trainings in Lagos recently, a WHO official, Dr. Niyi Ogundiran, notes that the trainings aim to provide caregivers and those working in the field of HIV/AIDS practical knowledge about how to provide support for people living positively.
"The training also seeks to sharpen caregivers' communications skills to enable them to provide appropriate guidance for people living with the virus," Ogundiran says.
On the paucity of funds that tends to affect health care delivery in the country, Araoye advocates continued judicious utilisation of available resources in order to curb the spread of the disease.