By Ajuma Edwina Ameh
No fewer than 409 babies tested positive to HIV/AIDs in Nigeria in 2020, a report by the National AIDS and STIs Control Programme has said.
It said about two percent of babies born in the country in 2020 tested positive to the virus.
The report was made available to Journalists Alliance for PMTCT in Nigeria (JAPiN) by an Assistant Director of the National Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Gbenga Ijaodola, at a three-day workshop organised by UNICEF in Calabar, Cross River state.
According to Ijaodola, a large number of these babies contracted the virus because their mothers failed to access facilities for ante-natal care, and ended up delivering at home or other birthing locations.
Details on the report showed that in in 2020; 27,909 infant DNA samples were tested, 19,715 were tested and 409 babies result came out positive, while in 2019; 26,247 infant DNA samples were collected, 19,947 were tested and 833 were positive.
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 the 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.
On the efforts made by Nigeria for the Elimination of Mother-to-Child-Transmission (EMTCT) of HIV, Ijaodola said the Nigerian government is investing in the global drive for the EMTCT.
“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,” he explained.
He 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 and failure of states to respond to the provision of adequate funding for PMTCT program activities.
Others include 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.