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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Nigeria has highest burden of children born with HIV globally -NACA

The Director General of the National Agency for the Control, Dr. Temitope Ilori, says Nigeria has the highest burden of children born with HIV in the world.

Dr. Ilori, who said this on Monday during her working visit/field trip to the Oyo State Ministry of Health, the Oyo State Agency for the Control of AIDS, and the University College Hospital in Ibadan, Oyo State, however, noted that the agency is working towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

According to the National Institutes of Health, “In 2020, there were an estimated 21,000 new child HIV infections in Nigeria, the highest in the world, which accounted for 14% of the global estimate. Furthermore, at 15% and 10% respectively, Nigeria had the second-highest six-week and breastfeeding mother-to-child transmission of HIV (MTCT) rate in 2020.”

Ilori said, “In the area of prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV, it’s unfortunate that Nigeria still has the highest burden of children born with HIV/AIDS, and therefore, this is a key priority area where we want to work assiduously to ensure that our mothers, our women, are educated and informed that they should visit health centres.

“When they’re pregnant, they should book in health centres where they have trained personnel to take the delivery because most of the transmission takes place perinatally. So, we are going to increase our advocacy, increase our sensitisation, increase our awareness on this to ensure that women seek help, book in the centres, and they have skilled birth attendants, and they have access to medication, because if they have access to medications, they will have a low viral load, or they will be virally suppressed, and will eliminate transmission to their unborn children.

“I’m happy that you are already engaging the traditional birth attendants at the state level because they play a major role. So, we’re going to reach out not only to the health workers, but even also to our mission homes, our religious leaders, our traditional leaders, and the birth attendants.”

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Dr Ilori urged Nigerians to work towards We call on everybody to come on board to stem the tide of HIV and meet the target of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

She hailed the Oyo government for contributing to the national response in the country of HIV/AIDS in the country and domesticating the 95-95-95 targets.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS established the 95-95-95 targets calling for 95 per cent of all people living with HIV to know their HIV status, 95 per cent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection to receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 95 per cent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy to have viral suppression by 2030.

“We do know that there’s lots of discrimination on gender, gender issues in the area of HIV/AIDS, people accessing health, how it is for the female, and even the vulnerable, people in custodial centres, inmates and other key population – sex workers, people using drugs, and men having sex with men.

“These are people that we need to reach out to in the national response because figures and studies have shown us that the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is higher within this key population. And if we do not tackle them, then we obviously will not be addressing the national response very squarely,” she added.

The NACA boss harped on a sustainable agenda aimed at ensuring the country’s ownership of efforts in the event of donor fatigue or withdrawal while revealing collaborative strategies with government at sub-national levels.

In her remarks, the State Health Commissioner, Dr Oluwaserimi Ajetumobi assured that the state government will keep working on its sustainability plan through community awareness campaigns, and the engagement of religious leaders, and others.

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On his part, the Chief Medical Director of the UCH, Prof. Jesse Otegbayo urged the government to make HIV test strips available in the country so that people can carry out rapid self-tests.

Prof Otegbayo said, “We should be able to test ourselves with a strip just like we test our blood glucose level because quite a number of people may not want to come out because of the stigma associated with the disease.

“If this will come to the fore, it will be good because I am not aware it is available. If it is possible in other countries, I believe it is possible in Nigeria.

“I know the government currently is funding drugs, and I am not sure the government can continue, but there should be a way that the cost of treatment will be brought down.”

According to UNICEF, 20,695 children aged 0-9 years were newly infected with HIV in 2020 – or one child every 30 minutes.

Gracie Brown
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