HIV: Experts Seek Improved PMTCT Services To Curb Infection Among Nigerian Children

Dr. Atana Ewa, Focal Person and Paediatric ART/ PMTCT, University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, Cross River State



Following increasing HIV infection among Nigerian children, experts have called for improved access to Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission (PMTCT) of
HIV/AIDS   services  across the country, to curb the trend.

Decrying the menace, an expert in medicine, Dr. Ijaodola Olugbenga said that three in four  Nigerian pregnant women living with HIV  lacks access to PMTCT services.

Ijaodola who is the Assistant Director, National PMTCT Lead, National AIDS and STIs Control Program (NASCP), Federal Ministry of Health who made this revelation at an ongoing three-day PMTCT media dialogue in Calabar, Cross River State, noted that this means that 63 percent do not access PMTCT.

He said, "Three in four  pregnant women in Nigeria are not captured during antenatal care. Nigeria contributes to 22,000 new HIV infections among children. Only 28 percent of HIV exposed infant had access to Early Infant Diagnosis in 2020."

He pointed that there are key issues why Nigeria has such high numbers, to include; "low uptake of early infant diagnosis services, low antenatal services uptake, low Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) coverage for positive pregnant women, low rate of facility deliveries, amongst others."

Ijaodola disclosed that some strategies  have been put in place to change the trend targeted to organising all facilities (private and public) and other services delivery point of HIV services for pregnant women using a "hub and spoke" model, linkage and retention of all HIV positive women in treatment based on the hub and spoke.

Others are establishment and empowerment of the Local Government Areas LGA team to address data, sample logging commodities and other relevant HIV services in the country.

Contributing, the focal person, Dr. Atana Ewa, Paediatric ART/ PMTCT, University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, Cross River State,  in her presentation titled: "Managing Children and Adolescent Living with HIV", pointed that identifying HIV in children requires a high level of suspicion. 

She said usually the symptoms and signs of HIV infection in childhood are similar to those of other diseases in the tropics but they may be more severe and occur more frequently. 

Dr. Ewa revealed some early features in children that are usually non-specific to include; fever, diarrhea, failure to thrive, cough, generalized Lymphadenopathy, adding that the child later presents with other features that are indicative of severe immune suppression amongst others.

She however said these situation can be managed with the new improved HIV drugs available.

On the current transmission of HIV in Nigeria, she says heterogeneous sex still account for the majority of transmission in Nigeria.

"Over 90 percent of transmissions -unprotected sexual intercourse between heterogeneous individuals. Homosexual sex is currently contributing disproportionately to the overall national epidemic.

"It is estimated that Men Sleeping With Men, (MSM) constitute only about one percent of the Nigerian population, yet this group now contribute to 20 percent of new HIV infections in Nigeria. Prevalence of the infection among MSM has been rising consistently from 14 percent in 2007 to 17 percent in 2010 and 23 percent in 2014 (Eluwa)."

Atana called on the media to project some intervention that would help eliminate Mother-To-Child Transmission of HIV to include; HIV counseling and testing at entry into PMTCT to detect positive women, ART given to positive women during pregnancy, minimal invasive procedures during labour/ elective Cesarean Section amongst others.

Earlier in his presentation, the Communication Specialist UNICEF, Dr. Geoffrey Njoku said that the workshop is targeted to invigorate and produce a workplan for members of the Journalists Alliance for the Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS (JAPiN) in Nigeria.

Njoku said that the objectives of the workshop are geared towards bringing HIV communication to the front burner.

According to him, "We need to begin to set new agenda in support to programming and resource mobilization, provide updated information on current state on HIV/AIDS, re-energise, re-engage, re-invigorate, resuscitate, revive and resurrect JAPiN. 

"The expected outcome of this workshop is to empower journalists to develop and publish informed content on HIV/AIDS, increased reportage and impact on financing of HIV/AIDS programmes in Nigeria."