Prof. John Idoko
The battle against the mother-to-child transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquire Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) may have received a boost with the release of additional 25million dollars to 12 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) by the Global Fund.
The Director-General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Prof. John Idoko who disclosed this in Awka, Tuesday during a courtesy visit to the Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi noted that the main objective of NACA and other agencies in the country was the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of the virus.
According to him, Nigeria carries 30 per cent of the HIV/AIDS burden in the world, and if the country can address the problem, it has completely addressed the issue in the world. He said that 70 per cent of the 210,000 children born with HIV in the world are Nigerians.
“The issue is very difficult to understand and it’s unacceptable to us given the fact that we now have the technology to interrupt mother-to-child transmission in Nigeria. In the developed countries one cannot recall the last time a mother transmitted HIV to her child, but in Nigeria we are still grappling with it,” Idoko said.
He expressed regrets that the treatment of the virus was very poor in all the states visited by officials of NACA, pointing out that if people living with the virus were properly treated, they could live up to 60 years.
Idoko argued that if the 70,000 children born HIV positive in the country were not given proper treatment, they would not see their fifth birthday, adding that more political will was required at the state and local government levels to reduce the pandemic.
“Of the 662 AIDS services providing sites in Anambra, only 58 of them provide prevention of HIV mother-to-child transmission services. If you do not provide the services, it is almost impossible to interrupt transmission of HIV from mother to child.
“We are being asked to attain the universal access rate of 90 per cent but now, we have only achieved nine per cent of it,” Idoko lamented.
To reverse the ugly trend of weak infrastructure in the health sector, lack of personnel and insufficient funds, he urged the state government to give more political will and commitment.
He said: “The partnership we want to engage in is the one that will transfer ownership and leadership to the state. We believe that if we do that, the coordination which is a major issue will be much better.”
Responding, Governor Obi expressed the readiness of his administration to offer the needed political will and resources in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the state.