The prevalence of HIV/AIDS is by far higher among female police personnel in Nigeria than among their male counterparts, and the lead cause is sexual exploitation by male officers who deliberately toughen police routines to make the women vulnerable to sexual abuse, an internal police assessment has found.
A study of the incidence of the deadly virus within the Nigeria Police Force concluded that male officers deliberately issue tough regulations that make their female counterparts desperate and willing to gratify them with sex.
The report also blamed the high incidence of HIV on female personnel who deliberately offer sex to their male colleagues, and those who indulge in “transactional sex”.
In all, a key catalyst for the spread, the study found, was the indiscriminate sexual behaviour of male officers who retained several partners and often avoided the use of protection, such as condom.
The study, conducted in 2010, but only available to the public now, said on the average the incidence of HIV among female officers was more than double the rate among male officers.
Titled, “Integrated Behavioural and Biomedical Surveillance Survey”, IBBSS, the study was first carried out in 2007.
Remarkably, within the three years span, the police force recorded a cut back from 3.6 percent to 2.5 percent in overall HIV prevalence, the report, triggered by the Police Action Committee on AIDS, PACA, found.
But on gender-based spread, the report said HIV/AIDS was rampant among female police officers in Nigeria than their male counterparts, and was higher than the rate in all the armed forces (Army, Navy and Airforce) combined.
On state basis, the study found that female police officers in Abuja had the highest prevalence of 12.7 per cent compared to 5.6 per cent for male officers. The Abuja rate for female personnel was the highest in the country, the report added.
It said populations especially at higher risk of contracting the virus are police officers on peace keeping operations, border patrol police, special anti-robbery squad, mobile police, anti-terrorism unit, highway patrol police and medical units.
On the cause, the report noted, “Strong regimentation within the force to compel female officers agree to sex, as well as others who gratify male colleagues with sex and others who engage in ‘transactional sex’”.
It did not provide further details.
Mohammed Abubakar, the Inspector General of Police at the time of the study, acknowledged in a preface to the report that the police was aware of the slant against its female personnel. He however did not say what the force was doing to reverse the trend.
Police spokesperson, Emmanuel Ojukwu, told PREMIUM TIMES the Police was doing lot to fight the scourge of HIV, although he denied knowledge of the details of the report.
“I don’t have the report, I don’t know what the recommendations are, but I do know that a lot of efforts are being made towards getting better accommodation for officers and men of the police force,” Mr. Ojukwu said.
He said while HIV is a national issue, the force was making every effort to make sure police officers are HIV free, and that those infected receive adequate treatment.
He did not provide a specific answer to the issue of sexual harassment, beyond saying the current police chief, Suleiman Abba, was working hard towards generally addressing the welfare of personnel.
Nigeria Police and HIV/AIDS
Nigeria’s 350,000-strong police force, is now deploying the report as the plank for an action plan to roll back HIV/AIDS between 2014 and 2016.
The overall goal is to prevent new infection and reduce to its barest minimum the impact of HIV/AIDS on the force within the period.
The report proposes “Gender policy, Gender sensitive programs, Right protection policies” as ways to stem the tide.
But the 2010 study, spearheaded by the National Coordinator, PACA, Grace Okudo, a Commissioner of Police, in partnership with United States Agency for International Development, USAID, National Agency for Control of AIDS, Nigeria, NACA among others, provides other telling findings.
While it blamed the high prevalence of the virus among female police officers on high sexual activities among personnel, it also pointed at the relationship between HIV and the use of alcoholic and psycho-active substances in the police and the military.
Overall, the report noted that even with the high use of psycho-active substances in the armed forces, HIV prevalence among military personnel was much lower than the police.
The report said the disparity may be attributed to the relatively better funding of the HIV/ AIDS response programme in the military.
More girlfriends, less protection
The report said besides HIV, other Sexually Transmitted Infections were also higher among police officers than the armed forces.
It also blamed the accommodation standard among the junior cadre, which constitutes 77.7 per cent of the work force.
“The Police Barracks environment possesses several factors that can promote risky sexual behaviour. Some of these include congestion, excessive sharing of facilities and absence of recreational facilities,” the report noted.
“The Police Barracks also holds great potential for repeated and sustained exposure to target individuals and sub-populations to HIV/AIDS interventions like Behaviour Change Communication (BCC).”
The IBBS report also said that multiple and concurrent sexual partnerships among officers was high.
Surprisingly, it noted, even with high occurrence of multiple partners, there was low use of protection such as condoms among regular partners, especially with the fact that 31.5 per cent of police officers had been away from their home or family “consistently” for one year preceding the survey.
The report said the use of condoms in regular relationships was higher among armed forces personnel than police officers.
“Condom use among girlfriends of Police Officers is 45.4% and is considerably lower than the Armed Forces, at 64.7%. This high risk behaviours puts police officers at more risk than their Armed Forces counterpart.
“Sexual relationship with boy/girlfriend was the most commonly reported non-marital sex among police (36%) in the last 12 months. Reported sex with more than one non-regular partner (casual, commercial and girl/boyfriend) in the 12 months was 14.4%.
“Condom use at last commercial sex was low among Police (58.9%) compared to the Armed Forces (86%). Condom use at last sex with casual partners amongst Police was low (56.2%) compared with the Armed Forces (76.3%),” it said.