At least 3,400 babies born in Nigeria in the past four years tested positive to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), a new report has shown.
The report by the National AIDS and STIs Control Programme (NASCP) shows that out of 73,422 samples tested between 2017 and 2020, 3,409 returned positive.
The assistant director of the National Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) lead, Gbenga Ijaodola, presented the findings of the report at a media dialogue in Calabar, Cross River State, on Monday.
Giving a breakdown of the report, he said: “In 2020, 27,909 infant DNA samples were tested, 19,715 were tested and 409 babies’ results came out positive and in 2019; 26,247 infant DNA samples were collected, 19,947 were tested and 833 were positive.
“In 2018, 22,977 infant DNA samples were collected, 17,488 were tested and 808 positive results were recorded while in 2017, a total of 19,927 infant DNA samples were collected, 16,272 samples were tested and 1,359 samples came out positive.”
About the dialogue
The media dialogue, which was organised by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the ministry of information, was aimed at reinvigorating and producing a work plan for Journalists Alliance for PMTCT in Nigeria (JAPiN).
Geoffrey Njoku, UNICEF’s communication specialist, said the importance of the workshop is to bring the issue of MTCT of HIV to the front burner.
Mr Njoku said that while other aspects of HIV cases and transmission are widely reported across various media, the elimination of MTCT is highly important.
He called on journalists to continue to press on these issues to ensure that babies are delivered with a reduced risk of contracting the virus.
Mr Ijaodola said a large number of these babies contracted the virus because their mothers failed to access health facilities for ante-natal care.
He explained that some of them also ended up delivering at home or other birthing locations instead of approved health centres.
He said the ministry of health is collaborating with partners to identify key stakeholders who focus on encouraging women.
He noted that these stakeholders work together with the ministry to ensure women present their babies at facilities to undergo HIV testing at birth, and after six weeks for a retest of both positive and negative newborns.
He said the government is highly interested in the global drive for the elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission.
He said: “What determines the health of every nation is how they take care of their women and children. And the joy of every mother is that her baby comes out clean devoid of any infection, HIV inclusive.
“That is the vision and that is what we are trying to do. Some countries have been able to do it. In fact, from what I heard, Uganda is on the second level of validation.”
“By the time they finish the second and the third level, Uganda is going to be the first African country that can say they have been able to eliminate mother-to-child transmission.”
Mr Ijaodola said while some babies might not exhibit symptoms of HIV infection until after four years of their life, there is need to activate a scale-up of the plans on ground to capture a longer period of children’s lives.
He noted that some of these activities where the children could be captured and retested for the virus include during immunisation, nutrition visits and when they are taken to facilities for different service delivery.
The official said to meet up with the global target, the National Strategic Plan mandates 95 per cent of all HIV positive pregnant and breastfeeding mothers receive antiretroviral therapy; 95 per cent of all HIV-exposed infants receive antiretroviral prophylaxis and 95 per cent of all HIV-exposed infants have early infant diagnosis within 6-8 weeks of birth.
He said there are some challenges hindering the drive to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Nigeria including poor access to formal public health facilities.
He said only about a third of pregnant women in Nigeria are able to access PMTCT services.
He listed other challenges to include failure of states to respond to the provision of adequate funding for PMTCT programme activities, ineligible improvement of ante-natal care and facility delivery uptake, low paediatric HIV case identification, and poor linkage to care and treatment for children living with HIV.
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