Infant HIV Infections, Deaths Threaten Disease Elimination

Experts have warned that the increase in diseases and deaths associated with  HIV infections among infants has virtually eroded most of the previous gains towards elimination of Mother-To-Child Transmission (MTCT)  in Nigeria.

The warnings came during a just concluded two-day meeting at Bayview Hotel, Enugu, which assessed individual and collective efforts towards eMTCT of HIV with emphasis on communications through the mass media. The meeting was organised by members of Journalist Alliance for Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission of HIV in Nigeria(JAPiN) with support from United Nations Children Fund(UNICEF). 

A communiqué signed by Sola Ogundipe, National Coordinator, JAPiN said: “An undisputed observations show that the morbidity and mortality associated with pediatrics HIV infection has virtually eroded most of the previous gains towards elimination of MTCT in Nigeria.”

More worrisome is the fact that not less than 60,000 new infections are recorded among children in the country yearly, a situation that has called for aggressive PMTCT intervention, the communiqué said.

According to the communiqué, observations from the various JAPiN zones and states also showed that the progress made in PMTCT towards eMTCT have been grossly inadequate.

Other observations are: “Nigeria has been left behind in efforts to mitigate the burden of HIV and AIDS through PMTCT because of poor aggregation and coordination of efforts,” the communiqué said.

Members of Journalists Alliance for Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission of
HIV in Nigeria (JAPiN) at the just concluded meeting in Enugu.

JAPiN further noted that there is significant decline in funding of PMTCT activities and other HIV interventions by international donors in Nigeria.

The group also stated that the huge gap in advocacy due to poor coordination is hurting efforts to redress MTCT situation in Nigeria.

The communiqué added: “JAPiN observes huge communication gap in PMTCT efforts towards eMTCT in Nigeria due to poor cooperation from frontline managers of HIV and AIDS in Nigeria.

“Man-made barriers to efforts of Nigerian journalists (JAPiN members) as communicators/advocates for PMTCT and eMTCT, adding; “Members have been faced with harsh receptions from government agencies, in which case NACA and some SACAs have been found culpable,” it said.

“Poor documentation of cases has beclouded the true situation of MTCT in Nigeria and efforts to prevent and eliminate it. Nigeria still slow at graduating to B+ Option for PMTCT,” the communiqué said.

The group therefore recommended that PMTCT interventions in Nigeria should be guided by the new UNAIDS target of 90:90:90, which is to ensure that 90 per cent of the global population is tested for HIV, 90 per cent of those who test positive have access to treatment and for 90 per cent to be virally suppressed.

Since HIV is not a stand-alone goal under SDGs, JAPiN said; “There is the need to sustain its visibility by prioritising interventions towards meeting related goals and targets, using the broader Maternal Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) scheme.”

It also said that there is need to document milestones, gaps, lessons and prospects towards eMTCT using the mass media as first line approach.

Others are the need to remove bottle-necks to PMTCT coverage by the media; ensure closer relationships between managers of HIV and AIDS control agencies at the national, state and local government levels.

The communiqué insisted that it is important to create strategic local funding initiatives and sound monitoring mechanism for transparency.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on December 17, 2015.


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