To reduce the growing proportion of new HIV infections among children, Nigerian journalists have been called to increase reports which promote issues bordering on the Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission (eMTCT) of HIV.
Journalists Alliance for the Prevention of Mother to Child Transimission of HIV/AIDS (JAPIN) in Calabar, Cross River State, made the call recently during a three-day workshop it organised to assess individual and collective efforts towards eMTCT of HIV with emphasis on communications through the mass media.
Lamenting that Nigeria has the second highest global burden of HIV/AIDS and also contributes the largest proportion of new vertically acquired HIV infections among children, JAPIN said stressed media’s role in halting the trend.
The meeting brought together journalists from various media organisations across the country among other stakeholders in HIV industry who expressed worry over the country’s poor indices infant HIV infections.
For instance, Dr. Sunday Aboje, National Coordinator, National AIDS/STI Control Programme, (NASCP) Federal Ministry of Health, in his presentation, said that Nigeria is still home to the highest number of children living with HIV/AIDS worldwide.
Dr Aboje, who was represented by Assistant Chief Scientific Officer of the agency, Taiwo Olakunle, said “Nigeria has the second highest burden of HIV globally with 3.4 million people estimated to be living with HIV; 1.7 million HIV positive women and 380,000 children less than 15 years.
“Nigeria has the largest number of paediatric HIV cases in the world. Nigeria also contributes the largest proportion of new vertically acquired HIV infections among children.
“The country has come a long way in its effort to control the HIV/AIDS epidemic, particularly in PMTCT. Beginning with the pioneer 11 PMTCT-provider tertiary health facilities in 2002, the country now has 7,265 health facilities providing PMTCT services at all levels of the health care system.”
Aboje, however, stated that Nigeria’s target on eliminating new HIV cases in children among other things for 2018 was to ensure 50 per cent of HIV-exposed children have access to HIV prophylaxis treatment and early infant diagnosis services.
He also declared that funding, inadequate political commitment, and funding at state and LGA levels, weak health infrastructure as well as inadequate engagement of the private health sector as some challenges against eliminating new HIV cases in children.
However, Geoffrey Njoku, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Communications Expert, expressed grave concern on many pregnant positive women who miss out on Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART).
The Communications Expert urged journalists to create greater awareness on the role of comprehensive package of PMTCT interventions in eliminating child HIV infections.
The comprehensive package of PMTCT interventions includes HIV testing services (HTS), care of HIV-exposed infants comprising early infant diagnosis and linkage to treatment (EID/T).
Others are family planning services, antiretroviral (ARV) and Cotrimoxazole prophylaxis for mother-infant pairs, cervical cancer screening and use of lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART) for women.
Dr Abiola Davies, HIV/AIDS Specialist and a senior representative of UNICEF, who was also one of the workshop facilitators, charged journalists to read wide, get accurate data on issues of PMTCT/eMTCT and attend training to obtain accurate information to authenticate their reports.