Female police officers in Nigeria have a higher prevalence of HIV/AIDS than their male counterparts, the Integrated Behavioural and Biomedical Surveillance Survey conducted in 2010 in some states has revealed.
It is also stated that the Nigerian Police Force, with strength of about 350,000 officers distributed across the 774 Local Government Areas, has a higher prevalence of HIV than the Armed Forces.
The National Coordinator of Police Action Committee on AIDS, Dr. Grace Okodu, a Commissioner of Police, said this on Sunday evening in Abuja during her presentation on “Strengthening HIV intervention Service For Most at Risk Persons” as part of activities marking this year’s Worlds AIDS Day.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, who also spoke at the inauguration of the Police Action Committee on AIDS at the Force headquarters, Abuja, on Monday stated that the members of the Nigeria Police Force constituted a significant percentage of the Nigerian population, adding that more than half of the population of police officers and men were young and sexually active.
Okodu noted that the HIV/AIDS response within the NPF was not only a health sector issue but a multi-sectoral concern that affected all aspects, ramifications and dimensions of the statutory functions of the NPF as well as its structure and work environment.
Okodu gave an instance of where male police recruits on training at the Police College, Ikeja, in Lagos “go wild sexually in brothels around Ipodo Street just because they are restricted for six months.”
She said, “This strategic plan seeks to address the programme gaps within the HIV/AIDS response of the NPF. It will serve as a Policy Guide for the implementation of HIV/AIDS Prevention, Treatment, Care and Support activities in the NPF which will be implemented by the NPF itself and through external support.
“There is paucity of research evidence to inform targeted and relevant HIV/AIDS programme within the NPF. However, the IBBSS 2010 offer some hope…While the NPF is a predominantly male occupation, female police officers have been found to consistently have a higher HIV prevalence than their male counterparts in all the states where the IBBSS was conducted.
“In all, female police officers in the FCT had the highest prevalence at 12.7 percent compared to 5.6 percent of their male counterparts. Sub-populations, who are especially at risk, have been identified within the NPF. These include Police officers on peace-keeping operations, Border patrol Police, Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Mobile Police, Anti-Terrorism unit, Highway Patrol and Medical units.”
Okodu attributed the increase in prevalence rate in the police than other Armed Forces to funding of the armed forces.
She stated that out of the about 350,000 officers, 77 percent of them constitute the rank and file who also have “the least of standard of accommodation.”
“Wherever there is strife there is always sexual activities. Police barracks environment possesses several factors that can promote sexual behaviour. Behavioural change is necessary; we want to reduce stigma in the barracks,” she stressed.