Funding, Politics and Inaccurate Statistics Mar Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission in Nigeria


Despite efforts by the government to end mother-to-child HIV/AIDS transmission in 2015, new indication by NACA emerged that a sizeable number of Nigerian children and pregnant women are still living with HIV in 2017. Odimegwu Onwumere notes that the ratio is between 1.7m of Nigerian women and 380,000 children who are living with the virus and experts’ views are that Nigeria has the largest number of paediatric HIV cases in the world

Sani Aliyu is the Director-General of the National Agency for the Control of HIV/AIDS (NACA). He showed apprehension on December 9, 2016, at the Annual Health Correspondents Dinner, over the skyrocketing rate of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Nigeria. He said, “One of the things I’m really keen to sort out as the Director General is the issue of mother-to-child transmission.”

He added that any pregnant woman should have an HIV test and the HIV-positive among them should be given antiretroviral which he said was so effective now. Checks however revealed that in NACA Annual Report 2015, “7,747,052 individuals were counselled, tested and received results in 2015, a significant increase compared with a figure of 6,716,482 in 2014.”
The NACA expressed worry that the federal government contributes just about seven per cent of funding for HIV/AIDS actions in the country. Evidence was that Nigeria just fingered the 2017 budget for health from the fraction of 3.65 per centit was in 2016 to 4.15 per cent, as against 15 per cent WHO and African Heads of State declared for countries healthcare in a meeting at Abuja in 2001. Also, even some states in the country didn’t prioritise health, therefore putting the sector in nervousness.

According to sources, “While presenting Investment Case Model for NACA at Aso Rock, Aliyu said the HIV prevalence in Nigeria stands at 3.0 per cent of the population (estimated 3,165,000) living with HIV virus, with the treatment programme at 987,132 persons which is just about 31 per cent of those who are eligible to commence HIV treatment and this is largely due to many factors which include paucity of funds, capacity to absorb, human resource issues, and health systems issues among others.

“The United States government contributes 73 per cent, Global Fund provides 18 per cent while only seven per cent of enrollees treatment is being supported by Government of Nigeria.”

Why achieving prevention on transmission fails?
Journalists Alliance for the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (JAPIN) listened with apt attention during a three-day communication evaluation gathering early July 2017, as the National Coordinator, National AIDS and STIs Control Programme (NASCP), Ministry of Health, Dr. Sunday Aboje said in Calabar that Nigeria has mapped out stringent measures in making sure that mother-to-child transmission of HIV was pummeled by 2020. Observers said to the contrary, stating that this was the same way expectations were high in 2013, when Nigeria amplified that she would achieve prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission by 2015, which is yet to happen.

The then Director-General of NACA, Dr. John Idoko orated then that the aim of eliminating mother-to-child transmission would be a tall dream. He unclothed his mind on this while speaking at the broadcasting of an account on Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission (PMTCT) Scale-Up organised by Centre for Integrated Health Programmes (CIHP) in Abuja. Dr. Idoko frowned that despite the efforts by the government, the figures on mother-to-child HIV/AIDS transmission superseded the efforts to fight the disease. He believed that the state governments were not on full garrote in the campaign against HIV/AIDS; hence the aim became a hallucination.

Hear him, “Unless states understand the good in it and we obtain political commitment, ownership and shared responsibility from them, otherwise the response cannot be suitable and we will not make progress at the end of the day.”

Today, government is raising another hope in the fight, saying that there’s progress in the distribution of antiretroviral for pregnant women living with HIV in the country upon that the malady still spreads, Dr. Aliyu said in May this year, while marking the Children’s Day.
In the words of Aliyu, “Vertical transmission of HIV from mother-to-child still remains high at an estimated 28 per cent of affected pregnancies in the country. In 2015, Nigeria successfully increased Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission (PMTCT) services to over 7, 265 sites with 53,677 pregnant women placed on antiretroviral treatment. Despite this progress, a lot more needs to be done to stop children getting infected with HIV.”

Despite the progress?
On June 29, 2017, there were reports of 260 children who tested positive for HIV in Niger State. These children were between the ages of 0-14. Approximately 12 per cent of the children had no entrée to antiretroviral drugs, enthused Mrs. Mary Jalingo, Niger State chairperson of the Society for the Elimination of HIV, at the introductory assembly of the league of Civil Society Organisations for the brawl against the multiplication of HIV/AIDS.

According to Mrs. Jalingo, “The number of facilities providing prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in the state is also low; “there is also the need to encourage women to come forward to prevent their babies from being born with HIV.” For the Zonal Coordinator of SEHAC, Dr. Ismailia Garba in his observation at the occasion, “Many children had died at very tender ages because they were born with the HIV virus. If there was enough sensitisation the infected mothers would have known how to protect their unborn babies from the virus.”

During the meeting of Journalists in Calabar, the participants were worried, saying, “No fewer than 1.7 million women and 380,00 children under the age of 15, are currently living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, as according to the 2015 data by the National AIDS and STIs Control Program (NASCP) of the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH). They added that only 53,677 HIV positive pregnant women out of about 75,855 that test positive in the same year received anti-retroviral drugs.”

Taiwo Olakunle, who represented Dr. Aboje at the public presentation said, “As a result of this, many babies have been exposed to HIV/AIDS through Mother-To-Child Transmission (EMTCT). Currently, Nigeria has the largest number of paediatric HIV cases in the world.”
UNICEF HIV specialist, Abiola Davies recently whispered at an event in Abuja, “Nigeria is among countries with slow mother-to-child transmission decline. This is responsible for the country accounting for one third of the new HIV infections among children worldwide.”

Fighting transmission with scarce funds?
The NACA is nevertheless deepening labours to augment financial allotment, possession and sustainability, Director-General of NACA said in May 2017, at a meeting with the then Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.
No matter all the odds, Aliyu had hope during the May 2017 Children’s Day, saying that the scourge of mother-to-child transmission can be won. His words, “HIV/AIDS is a global health challenge of our lifetime, but we remain committed to fighting this virus to finish.

“Research has led to innovation in preventing transmission of HIV from infected mothers to their children and an ever-widening scope of treatment options for children living with HIV and their families.
“Counselling and testing for HIV is crucial, especially among pregnant women to protect the unborn child and ensure that in the very near future, a HIV-free generation is made possible.”