US Envoy: 60,000 HIV Babies Born Annually in Nigeria
The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Terrence McCulley, yesterday raised the alarm that over 60,000 babies are born with HIV annually in the country 'even though the infections are preventable'.
Besides, the UNAIDS has disclosed that Nigeria accounts for 21 per cent new infection of HIV/AIDS in infants, saying enough had not been done to reduce the rate of mother-to-child transmission.
The envoy raised the alarm at the Primary Health Centre in Masaka, Nasarawa State, during a tour there to observe the progress being made on Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV supported by President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
He argued that where PMTCT is properly implemented, the chances of infection from mother-to-child could drop from 40 per cent to just two per cent, noting that many HIV+ pregnant women in Nigeria do not have access to the PMTCT.
Coordinator of the Gwamma Centre for Global health, Nigeria, Dr. Jerry Gwamma, said at least 6.9 million women need to be able to access PMTCT annually at an early stage in their pregnancy. This, he said, has presented a huge challenge.
“So that means that out of this 6.9 million people, as a country we have never really reached up to 2 million. Last year, the country reported reaching 1.2 million which is about what PEPFAR achieved on its own in 2012,” he said.
Gwamma, who is also a doctor with the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), added that the rate of counselling and testing for pregnant women in Nigeria is also very low with only about 20 per cent accessing the service.
“We are hoping to reach 2.5 million women which is a fraction of the 6.9 million. It is estimated that there are as many as 230,000 HIV positive pregnant women who would need PMTCT every year but as at 2007, we were reaching only about 19,000. As at 2012, we reached about 40,000 HIV positive pregnant women,' he said.
According to UNAIDS statistics, 3.1 million Nigerians were living with HIV at the end of 2011 and nearly 300,000 new infections occurred in 2011 with over 50 per cent of them children. Nigeria alone accounts for 21 per cent of new infections in these children globally.