WORRIED by recent statistics that indicated Nigeria as having the highest burden of the human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV) positive pregnant women in the world, the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) is now perfecting plans to scale up the PMTCT services in the country.
The Director General of NACA, Prof. John Idoko, announced this as the United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, voted an additional 80 million-dollar global support for innovative approaches to ensure Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV.
Meanwhile, the Joint United Nations’ Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has called for greater coordination in the fight against HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Nigeria is yet to adopt the new World Health Organization option B plus 2012 guideline on ‘treatment-for-life’ for mothers after delivery.
In an address at the 2012 International AIDS Conference (IAC) yesterday in Washington DC, Clinton noted that creating an AIDS-Free Generation requires addressing the critical needs of people living with HIV, including women.
She said that the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) had reached 370,000 women worldwide with aim to get to 1.5 million women by the end of 2013.
Clinton said: ‘When women are identified as HIV-positive and eligible for treatment, they are often referred to another clinic, one that may be too far away for them to reach. As a result too many women never start treatment.
“The United States will invest an additional 80 million dollars to fill this gap. These funds, will support innovative approaches to ensure that HIV-positive pregnant women get the treatment they need to protect themselves, their babies, and their partners.”
Idoko lamented insufficient funding to close existing PMTCT service gaps, noting that out of the over 8,360 Ante Natal Care (ANCs) points, only 760 of them are providing care.
He listed strategies to achieve the 2015 target of 90 per cent global reduction in new Mother-To Child infections to include treatment, care and support to mothers living with HIV, their children and families.
Others include coordination at state and local levels, accessible family planning services and decentralization of ARV prophylaxis to the primary health care centers where most pregnant women still seek care.
The Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) had initiated the National PMTCT programme in 2001 with the aim of reducing vertical transmission of HIV or stopping children from being infected during pregnancy, labour or breastfeeding.
Chairman, National PMTCT task team (FMOH), Prof. Atiene Sagay acknowledged the engagement of private sector as critical to improve PMTCT coverage nationwide.
The UNAIDS Nigeria said it was working with NACA and the Ministry of Health to get the First Lady of Nigeria to personally take ownership of the PMTCT programme. The office in Nigeria, is also working with partners to mobilize wives of governors and other women leaders around this agenda.
UNAIDS country coordinator for Nigeria, Dr. Kwame Ampomah, described the HIV pandemic as a multi-faceted problem that demands a multi-sectoral approach.
He told The Guardian in Abuja at the weekend that “coordination is very critical to ensure that the multiplicity of stakeholders all participate in the implementation of the National Strategic Plan are very well coordinated towards achieving a single objective of reducing transmission and bringing mitigation to the infected and affected.
“Right from the onset, UNAIDS has worked hard towards the establishment of effective coordination mechanisms in countries. In Nigeria, the efforts of UNIADS and other development partners have resulted in the establishment of NACA, which is the statutory government body for the coordination and leadership in implementing the national strategic plan. UNAIDS has also been a major player even in the crafting of the National Strategic Plan and continue to support NACA in ensuring the effective implementation.”