By Hassan Zaggi
A specialist on HIV with the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Dr. Abiola Davies, has warned that there will be grave consequences if Nigeria fails to achieve the Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission of HIV.
She gave the warning at a two –day media dialogue on the Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, in Calabar.
The dialogue was put together by UNICEF in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.
PMTCT of HIV was introduced in 2001 the with the aim of reducing the incidences of HIV in Nigeria.
Nigeria is said to have the second highest number of new HIV infection among children.
Dr. Davies however, lamented that Nigeria has only 30-40 per cent coverage of PMTCT and therefore called for the galvanization of resources to meet the global target of eliminating the mother to child transmission.
“Nigeria has the 2nd highest number of new HIV infections among children. If prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV intervention is not successful in Nigeria, HIV transmission from mother to child would not be successfully interrupted globally,” she stressed.
In his presentation, an Assistant Director with the National AIDS and STIs Control Programme, Gbenga Ijaodola, disclosed that Nigeria is responsible for over 12.4% of the global burden of HIV infected children with an estimated 267,000 number of children living with HIV in the country.
He, however, assured that “Nigeria is committed to the goal of Eliminating Mother to child transmission by 2020 and has initiated a number of strategies to achieve it.”
He disclosed that 221,729 children are living with HIV in Nigeria. Out of this figure, he noted, only 54,167 representing 24.4% are on treatment.
While giving a state-by-state breakdown of the number of women who were tested for HIV during antennal care in 2017, he revealed that Kaduna has the highest number.
According to him, over 370,000 pregnant women were testing for HIV in Kaduna state followed by Kano state with close 330,000 pregnant women.
The state with the least number of pregnant women tested for HIV in 2017 is Bayelsa with a little over 20,000.
In 2017, Dr. Ijaodola further revealed, 165, 474 women needed PMTCT and that 64,511 tested positive.
He, however, said that, 50,890 pregnant women are on antiretroviral treatment.
He enumerated the challenges bedeviling the attainment of the PMTCT in Nigeria to include inadequate appropriation for HIV programme in national and states budgets; dwindling support from partners, socio-economic challenges, poor health seeking behavior among women and of culture, myths, misconceptions and stigmatization
What states must do to attract women to attend ANC
Speaking with The AUTHORITY in an exclusive interview the Co-Chair, Kaduna Maternal Accountability Mechanism- Mustapha Jumare, called on state governments to improve health care services, especially, antenatal care provided in their various states.
According to him, Kaduna State government was able to achieve such feat because it engaged on mobilization of women across the state.
“The most important thing is to improve the health sector, especially antanetal services.
“Human resources and skilled birth attendants must be available in the health facility.
“The facility must be 24 hours functional so that any time you go there, the staff will be readily available to check the pregnant women.
“The services must improve and there must be blood in their banks. This is because the major factor that is fueling maternal mortality is lack of blood.
“All the essential drugs should be available. Most importantly, services should be available.
“The nurses/midwives should be up and doing and must maintain their professional ethics,” Jumare insists.
He, however, regretted that there is still dearth of midwives in primary health care facilities across the country, reiterating that this must change.