Nigeria has highest rate of children born with HIV/AIDS – NACA DG

Nigeria has the highest number of children born with HIV/AIDS in the world, the Director General of the National Agency for the Control AIDS, Dr Temitope Ilori has said.

Dr Ilori made this statement on Monday while on a working visit/field tour 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.

She, however, pointed out that the organization is working towards eliminating the AIDS pandemic by 2030.

“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.”

Dr Ilori challenged Nigerians to strive for We urge everyone to join us in halting the spread of HIV and achieving our goal of eliminating AIDS as a threat to public health by 2030.

She praised the Oyo government for domesticating the 95-95-95 targets and for its role in the national response to HIV/AIDS in the nation.

The Joint United Nations Programme set the 95-95-95 targets on HIV/AIDS and they stipulate that by 2030, 95% of all individuals living with HIV will be aware of their status, 95% of those diagnosed with the virus will receive ongoing antiretroviral therapy, and 95% of those on therapy will have viral suppression.

“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 head of NACA repeatedly emphasized a sustainable agenda that would guarantee national ownership of activities in the event that donors became weary or withdrew, all the while disclosing cooperative tactics with subnational governments.

Dr Oluwaserimi Ajetumobi, the State Health Commissioner, promised during her speech that the state government will continue to work on its sustainability plan by including religious leaders and conducting community awareness campaigns, among other means.

Prof. Jesse Otegbayo, the Chief Medical Director of the University of the Transplantation (UCH), encouraged the government to provide HIV test strips nationwide so that anyone can quickly test themselves.

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 NACA data from 2023, there are an estimated 1.8 million HIV-positive people in Nigeria, of whom 1.63 million are now receiving antiretroviral therapy, which can save their lives.

The research also showed that a few states with rates below 15% and a big number of states with rates exceeding 25% are responsible for the nation’s average MTCT rate of 22%.

It went on to say that Nigeria accounts for roughly 30% of the global shortfall in reaching the goal of ending HIV transmission through MTCT.

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