The report from the National AIDS and STIs Control Programme was shared by Dr Gbenga Ijaodola, an assistant director of the National Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (MTCT) of HIV at a three-day workshop in Calabar, Cross River state.
The workshop organised by UNICEF and the Child Rights Information Bureau of the ministry of information was organised to reinvigorate and produce a work plan for Journalists Alliance for PMTCT in Nigeria (JAPiN).
Details on the report show that in 2020; 27,909 infant DNA samples were collected, 19,715 were tested and 490 babies result came out positive and in 2019; 26,247 infant DNA samples were collected, 19,947 were tested and 833 were positive.
Similarly, in 2018, a total of 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.
Ijaodola said a large number of these babies contracted the virus mostly because their mothers failed to access facilities for ante-natal care and ended up delivering at home or other birthing locations.
He said the Federal Ministry of Health is collaborating with partners to identify key stakeholders who focus on encouraging women.
He said these stakeholders work together with the ministry to ensure the 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.
Further speaking, the health expert 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 there are taken to facilities for different service delivery.
Nigeria’s Focus on Eliminating MTCT of HIV
Addressing efforts made by Nigeria to eliminate mother-to-child-transmission of HIV, Ijaodola said the Nigerian government is highly invested in the global drive for the EMTCT.
“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, infant 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’ve been able to eliminate mother-to-child transmission.”
Global Target for the Elimination of MTCT
Ijaodola 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 has early infant diagnosis within 6-8 weeks of birth.
Also, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Elimination of MTCT target popularly referred to as the yellow book projects a 95 per cent ANC coverage, 95 per cent testing coverage for pregnant women and 95 per cent of PMTCT coverage.
Challenges hindering EMTCT of HIV/AIDS
Ijaodola further listed some of the challenges hindering the drive to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Nigeria as poor access to formal public health sector, only about a third of pregnant women in Nigeria are able to access PMTCT service and lack of comprehensive data reporting system to track cases of PMTCT.
Others are; failure of states to respond to the provision of adequate funding for PMTCT program 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.
Also speaking Dr 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.
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 on the health beat to continue to press on these issues to ensure that babies are delivered with a reduced risk of contracting the virus.