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HIV, additional cause of infertility in HIV positive couples —Expert

A medical expert, Dr Oliver Ezechi has said that despite high mortality and morbidity associated with HIV infection, the infection may be a specific cause of infertility, in addition to the other traditional causes of infertility in HIV positive couples.

Dr Ezechi, a consultant obstetric and gynaecologist, said this in his Nigerian Institute of Medical Research(NIMR) distinguished lecture series entitled “That she may survive, and bring forth an AIDS free Generation”.

Ezechi stated that infertility among HIV positive couples is increasingly being reported, adding that “it is a double jeopardy of HIV and infertility for millions of couples living within the infertile belt of Africa.”

The expert, who remarked that the rate of unexplained infertility was higher in HIV positive couples, stated that studies have shown that HIV infection may be a specific cause of infertility, in addition to the other traditional causes of infertility in HIV positive couples.

Ezechi said that the proportion of individuals with abnormal sperm density was significantly higher in the HIV positive partners compared to couple.

He added, “in our study, male contributes about one third of infertility and severity of HIV diseases imparts on semen quality.”

The expert, however, said that HIV is now wearing a woman’s face in Nigeria given that its burden is higher for women than men in both urban and rural areas.

“Feminisation of HIV/AIDS globally, nationally and at the site level is not because women are more promiscuous than men. It is due to the conspiracy of nature, culture and man,” he said.

Ezechi, however, stated that for females to survive and bring forth an AIDS free generation, there was the need to strategically plot against the conspiracy of nature, culture and man.

According to him, “This should be done through conscious effort to educate women to not only delay age at first sex, but empower them to be self-sufficient, institutionalise laws that delay age at marriage, abhors and prevent violence against women, as well as make life-saving ARV drugs accessible and affordable to women and their families.”

The increasing incidence of HIV among women, he also declared worrisome, saying that it shows the high rate of unmet needs for family planning and unprotected sex.

According to him, “This also has implication for mother-to-child transmission of HIV and heterosexual transmission of HIV. The large numbers and their predominant residence in non-urban settings pose a further challenge to the HIV programme in the country.”

He also stated that it was time to classify Nigerian traders as another vulnerable group that merit targeted HIV-prevention programmes, adding that often they are involved in high risk sexual behaviours such as early initiation of sex, premarital sex, multiple sexual partners and commercial sex.

While stating that advent of potent ARV had resulted in a decrease in rates of HIV-related deaths globally, Ezechi said  deaths from non-AIDS causes has become increasingly common, with the major ones being cardiovascular diseases, maternity mortality and liver diseases.

He also charged the National Assembly as a matter of urgency to pass the Bill on stigmatisation and discrimination of Persons Living With HIVs (PLHIVs).