The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has expressed concern over new pediatric HIV infections in children aged 0-4 years.
“For example, PMTCT coverage is only 37 percent and 21,000 new pediatric HIV infections recorded in children aged 0-4 years in 2019,” Mr. Ehanire said during a national dialogue on Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) on Tuesday in Abuja.
The dialogue was organized by the National AIDS/STIs Control Programme of the Federal Ministry of Health.
He added, “Nigeria, being one of the 21 priority countries in sub-Saharan Africa for the elimination of vertical transmission of HIV, committed to and endorsed the Global Plan. National AIDS/STIs Control Programme of the Federal Ministry of Health.
“We agreed to be held accountable for achieving the set targets by 2015. Since then, we implemented several pillars cutting across leadership, policy, and coordination.”
According to the health minister, the growing cases are unacceptable.
“Overall, we estimate that 88 percent of pregnant women who test positive are on antiretrovirals (ARVs),” he added.
Gambo Aliyu, the Director-General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, explained that despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, 350,000 persons living with HIV were identified in the last 18 months.
“This number is a break from the previous 50,000 to 60,000 a year,” the NACA boss disclosed.
Mr Aliyu further explained, “From a few numbers of one-stop shops, it increased to 60 one-stop shops all over the country, and all these accounted to the 350,000 we were able to identify, instead of the traditional 50,000 to 60,000 people.
“Results from the Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS) conducted in 2018 shows about 1.9 million people under the age of 64 are living with HIV.”
On mother-to-child HIV transmission, Mr Aliyu suggested tweaking the existing strategy to stop the transmission.
“It is not the PMTCT that is not working. It is the strategy that we have to tweak. If you look at the numbers we had as far back as 2006; we had about 13,000 women on treatment.
“As of 2019, about 421,000 women on treatment; this is over a 200 per cent increase,” said the NACA boss.
He, however, lamented that six million out of eight million pregnant women were not attending antenatal care.
“So, we are battling two million that are attending antenatal care in implementing these services; for those that we have access to, the services are delivered well,” Mr Aliyu noted.
He noted that the only way to eliminate MTCT was to take services to the community level, adding that “if we can do that, I guarantee all of us that in the next 18 months, we will see huge rebound that we noticed with ART surge.”