As the world gathered in Melbourne, Australia few days ago to deepen discussion around the HIV/AIDS epidemic with the hope of having a zero infection world and a lasting solution to the disease that have plagued us for decades and killed millions of people around the world. It is important for us as Africans and particularly as Nigerians to take an inward look at both the internal and external factors contributing to the rise and spread of the disease in Nigeria – among such is the Boko Haram insurgency which has killed over 2000 people since 2009.
Last year, Borno Commissioner for Health said about 16,000 people are currently living with the dreaded HIV/AIDS and the insurgency by Boko Haram has greatly increased the prevalence of the infection. Beside HIV/AIDS, they are reported cases of other sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies according to Anas-Kolo.
The present day Borno State which is the most active state of Boko Haram operations in Nigeria’s North East region is the historic the Bornu Sultanate of the Kanuri which is part of the Sokoto Caliphate of the Hausa/Fulani through the conquest of Usman Dan Fodio in 1802. But both the Bornu Sultanate and Sokoto Caliphate came under the control of British Colonization in 1903. All through this period, the British Christian missionaries used western education as a tool for evangelism, which has led to secular education to being viewed with suspicion by many locals and dissatisfaction gave rise to many fundamentalists among the Kanuri and people of the North East (Nigeria).
Mohammed Yusuf took over the Muslim youth organization – Shabaab in 1995 which was formerly under the control of Mallam Lawal and conducted its operations more or less peacefully during it early existence but that changed completely in 2009 when the members started arming themselves and campaigning against the influence of western education as “Boko Haram”. After the killing of its leader Mohammed Yusuf, everybody became unsafe; there have been attacks on government establishments, infrastructure and religious/worship places. The battle looked like from somewhere to everywhere.
When situations in communities, state and nation go bad – women and children especially girls are the most vulnerable and affected. The Boko Haram insurgency by these terrorists could be argued to have increased the prevalence rate of STDs and HIV in the North Eastern region of Nigeria especially with the infamous and cowardly abduction of over 200 school girls in Chibok (who are still in the camp(s) of the terrorists for more than 3months and counting), without mentioning other unreported incidents of rape, girl molestation and assault on women by the Boko Haram group. The coercive sexual attack strategy deployed by Boko Haram has increase the risk of HIV and other STIs.
The trend has become worrisome by this wicked attack on our young woman and girls by Boko Haram. Adolescence in the life of any humans in a critical moment; it’s time, in fact for many girls to form their character, forge a path in life and decide on what they want out of life but they lost this important part of their lives thanks to the insurgency.
One can only imagine the harrowing experience and emotional torture the girls are going through at the moment – unfortunately Boko Haram believes girls should not be educated but be abused , raped and forced into early marriage. We need to invest in our health sector, education and protect girls and women right from this cowardly act of aggression from groups like Boko Haram. The millennium development goals are achievable with zero HIV new infection!
Stanley Eze is the President of Youth for Human Rights Nigeria, email@example.com, 07030816284