Nkereuwem Etok, Programme Manager of the Akwa Ibom State Agency for the Control of AIDS (SACA), says the prevalence of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is higher in married couples than in prostitutes.
Etok made this known during an interactive session with journalists in Uyo, the State capital, on Tuesday.
He said the development could be traced to the high rate of married persons who engage in unprotected sex outside their marriages.
According to Etok, a survey carried out by the agency in the state revealed that married couples accounted for 51.6 percent of HIV cases while prostitutes constitute only four percent.
“Before the statistics started coming, we were sure that the most-at-risk population would be the commercial sex workers,” he said.
“We were sure that this group would be the most affected, but our data showed surprising result that married men and women are the highest HIV infected persons, with 51.6 percent.
“The commercial sex workers recorded only four percent, while those engaged in casual sex recorded second highest with 30 percent.”
Etok explained that most married persons engage in casual sex blindly, trusting their partners and disregarding their actual status.
He also said that many people are still tied to the culture of marrying widows without minding what killed the husband.
Others are the frequent travellers, who are always on business or work trips within and outside the country, thereby exposing themselves to unprotected sex from partners whose status they know nothing about.
Etok urged the general public, especially people of Akwa Ibom State, to always undergo regular HIV screening, which is free of charge in designated places across the 31 local government areas of the state.
According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), Nigeria has the second largest HIV epidemic in the world, although HIV prevalence among adults is remarkably small at 3.1%.
An estimated 60% of new HIV infections in western and central Africa in 2015 occurred in Nigeria.