Sex, love and survival: Valentine's Day in Nigeria

Armen Hareyan's picture

In Nigeria, Valentine's Day is a serious business. In this film, Joke Okunoye tells how a DFID-funded scheme helped raise her awareness of sexual health issues, the risks of HIV/AIDS, and how she's now spreading the word to others

Zakari will wake up early on Valentine’s Day in Abuja, Nigeria. Like love-struck boys the world over he will take the card he made by hand and rush to Rasheeda’s house. Rasheeda has a present for him too but won’t say what it is: she doesn’t want to spoil the surprise.

The young couple – he is 24, she 22 – have been together for four years and plan to get married as soon as Rasheeda finishes her business administration studies. For them Valentine’s Day is a chance to show off how in love they are.

But romance is not without its risks in Nigeria. 2.6 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, the second largest number in any country in the world. Research shows that the social groups most vulnerable to infection are female sex workers, uniformed service personnel, transport workers and young people like Zakari and Rasheeda.

And the key to preventing the spread of the disease is to change people’s behaviour, and that's how Zakari and Rasheeda play their part to help Nigeria lower the prevalence of HIV.

They are ‘peer educators’ trained as part of a DFID-backed initiative called ‘Make We Talk’, which will be a key part of a new £100-million six-year plan to reduce the spread and impact of HIV in this West African country.


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