Fashola’s wife to be unveiled as face of infant HIV prevention

 By: Chioma Umeha

Lagos state government is worried that despite the existing facilities and services, the State still contributes significantly to the unacceptably high national maternal deaths and the national burden of HIV, due to low utilisation of PMTCT and Family Planning (FP) services.

The State is one of the 12+1 States which accounts for 70 percent of the Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV burden in Nigeria with its HIV prevalence of 5.1 percent based on the 2010 National HIV Sero – Prevalence Sentinel Survey and its vast population of 21,883,048, according to the Lagos State Bureau of Statistics.

In view of this, government is set for another round of campaign to accelerate the elimination of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV and maternal death reduction in the state. The goal is to catalyse high level support for the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and maternal deaths through the mobilisation of strategic stakeholders, including women of influence, to improve the demand for quality Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) and to encourage healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies.

A rally to mark HIV/Aids Day, recently.
 The State is working in collaboration with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Joint Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), as well as other relevant stakeholders to achieve this goal. According to a statement by the Lagos State Ministry of Health, the campaign will enable infected pregnant mothers to have increased access to services to prevent their babies from being infected, as well as to encourage more families to embrace family planning practices. Part of the strategy is to unveil Wife of the Governor, Dame (Mrs) Abimbola Fashola, as the face of Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT)/Maternal Health in the State.

The strategy will also provide an update on progress towards elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission (MTCT) of HIV in the State in the light of the global plan targets highlighting achievements and gaps. It is also expected to stimulate commitment of critical stakeholders and provide vital information on PMTCT and a directory of functional PMTCT sites in the State. The statement stated that UNAIDS is committed to revolutionizing HIV prevention policies and practices that will ignite policy makers, opinion leaders and community gate keepers to focus on populations and programmes that will make a difference in getting to zero new infections.

One of such programmes is the elimination of vertical transmission of HIV and the reduction of AIDS-related maternal death by half in 2015. This mandate is clearly in line with that of UNAIDS zero AIDS related deaths and UNFPA: delivering a world where every birth is safe and where every woman is treated with dignity/respect. According to the 2012 projected population figures for Lagos State, there were 1,060,225 pregnant women in that year. At an HIV prevalence of 5.1 percent, about 54,071 pregnant women are infected with the virus and approximately one-third of whom would, in the absence of any interventions to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, pass the virus to their babies.

This translates to 16,468 preventable HIV infections among infants in the State during that year alone. The Lagos State maternal mortality ratio of 555/100,000 life-birth is higher than the national figure of 545/100,000 life birth. This statistics clearly negates UNFPA’s mandate of a world where every birth is safe and every child is born free of HIV. It is against this background that UNAIDS, UNFPA and UNICEF are supporting the Lagos State Government to convene this high-level meeting of women decision-makers in the State and other critical stakeholders to identify their roles in the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and maternal deaths.

This story was published in Daily Newswatch on October 16, 2014.