Nigeria: HIV/AIDS in the Military

Congratulations to Babafemi Odunsi, our former Reproductive Health Law Scholar, who published an article last year based on his  2005 LLM thesis “Global Security, Human Rights, Public Health and Military Policies on HIV/AIDS:  Nigeria as a Case Study”.    Last year he received a Ph.D. from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife Nigeria where he is now a Senior Lecturer and heads the Department of Business Law.  The author can be reached at femiodunsi2002ATyahoo&.com


The Botswana Review of Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS Vol. 2, No. 1, 2008. Online here.

Babafemi ODUNSI Faculty of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.

The interplay between armies, conflicts and spread of diseases is particularly important in the context of the global HIV/AIDS crisis. Soldiers are prone to HIV infection because of the nature of the setting in which they operate and the propensity of soldiers to engage in high-risk sexual and other behaviours.  Although this study addresses the issue from the perspective of male members of the Nigerian army, has ramifications for armies elsewhere, given the many common factors that exist.      It is now widely accepted that a human rights-based approach offers a better chance of effective control of HIV/AIDS than an approach which transgresses the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and uninfected persons.  However, the army is an organization that relies principally on coercion and is constituted of members largely perceived as persons deprived of their basic rights. In this military context, a rights-based approach appears to be an anachronism. A basic question arises, in relation to the preferable choice between ‘tough military measures’ and rights-based measures in the battle against HIV/AIDS in the military.      The imposition of draconian military orders and concomitant punishments for engaging in risky sexual behaviors might create the impression that a military organisation is getting tough in the war against HIV/AIDS.  However, such measures in the long run will be unproductive. Coercion and sanctions, the major military tools for controlling personnel management, may not be useful means of controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS in the military. The Nigerian military, apparently recognizing this fact, has avoided the ‘military route’ and remains committed to an approach which could be deemed a rights-based approach, which it has been using for a relatively long time. This scenario highlights a conviction: that whatever may be the perceived shortcoming of the approach in past efforts, the rights-based approach rather than coercive military measures, has a good possibility of achieving control of HIV/AIDS in the military.

For abstracts of theses by other graduates of our Programme are online here.

For more information on this topic, watch for: “HIV/AIDS and the Security Sector in Africa” ed. Obijiofor Aginam and Martin R. Rupiya (forthcoming from United Nations University Press)

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