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The Federal Government on Monday disclosed that 58 per cent of all HIV/AIDS infected adults in the country are women.

The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Josephine Anenih, who disclosed this in Abuja at the 5th National Conference on HIV/AIDS, said all infected adults aged 15 and above living with HIV in Nigeria are women a situation which she said was due to well-documented gender imbalances of power, social status and resources.

According to the minister, the devastating effect of HIV/AIDS pandemic in Nigeria has been identified as the major contributing factor to the miserable plight of over 17.5 million orphans and vulnerable children in the country.

Warning that the alarming situation poses a clear and present threat to the future socio-economic development of the country, especially as most of those affected represent the nation's future, Anenih pointed out that the country must rise up to the challenge by protecting and providing for the vulnerable children.

She said, 'It is the only way we can stave off a future of chaos and destruction. These unfortunate children orphaned as a result of their parents dying from HIV/AIDS, still suffer a lot of discrimination and stigmatisation in the society, and often denied basic human rights like access to education and health care services.

'A destitute child without any guidance, any education, or ties to society, is a walking time-bomb.

'No nation has the resources to intercept and defuse 17.5 million of these walking time-bombs, so we cannot afford to be reactive.'

She expressed the hope that the conference would work out strategies for ensuring that Nigerians are involved in every aspect of the HIV/AIDS response in the country, so as to guarantee its acceptance and workability.

According to her, 'All members of our society must grow in the realisation that everyone has a responsibility in preventing, caring, and providing awareness about HIV/AIDS.'

She advised that any action plan for the prevention and treatment of the disease must be underpinned by a robust rehabilitation and welfare programme that addresses the vulnerability issues of women, children, persons with disabilities, and the elderly.

Anenih said her ministry is currently collaborating with the Federal Ministry of Health, Development Partners, Non-Governmental Organisations, community-based organisations, faith-based organisations and the civil society to develop a sustainable and effective HIV/AIDS response.