Coronavirus heightens anxiety among LGBTQ Nigerians with HIV

p class="article-heading-des" style="box-sizing: border-box; color: #737373; font-family: Georgia; font-size: 26px; font-style: italic; line-height: 1.12; margin: 0px 0px 10px;">An HIV counsellor takes a patient's blood sample during an HIV-testing procedure in Lagos [File: Reuters]

For an already vulnerable, stigmatized group, the outbreak and lockdown have increased concerns about their health.

Lagos, Nigeria - When Andrew* first found out he was HIV-positive in January this year, he suffered a fleeting sense of paralysis, fearing his life was about to change forever. 

At 27, it was one of the things he dreaded as a gay man who was still in the closet. Even within the Nigerian LGBT community, HIV discrimination is rife and Andrew noticed no one would reply to him on the dating apps he used when he changed his status.

In the weeks after his diagnosis, he developed a routine to deal with the illness: religiously taking his HIV medication and practicing celibacy.

Andrew is a software developer who views the world through a prism of codes and programs, and as the coronavirus pandemic became very real, with Nigeria confirming its first case of the contagion in February, he felt uneasy.

The hysteria on the internet, fear-mongering, and the subsequent government-enforced lockdown in Lagos drove him to check his stash of HIV medication, or antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. Andrew started a six-month treatment schedule in January - one 300mg tablet taken daily to lower the presence of the virus in his body. With half the batch already taken, he realized he had enough to last him until June.

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