FG: Pregnant Women, Children Still Have Limited Access to HIV Treatment
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The federal government has said despite achievements made in response to HIV epidemic in the past few years, key population segments like pregnant women, children as well as those in closed custodial settings are sadly lagging behind because of limited access to high quality disease prevention and treatment services.
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire who disclosed this at an event to mark this year’s World HIV-AIDS Day in Abuja, yesterday, however noted that the country was moving close to achieving the UNAIDS target of 95-95-95 per cent on access to HIV prevention, treatment and care services.
He said that notable effort had gone this year, into expanding access to HIV testing and treatment service for pregnant women, through the national Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) scale up which aimed to increase the number of service delivery points from 6,000 to 40,000 locations through the “Test All, Treat All, Report All’ strategy.
Ehanire said it was important to keep up current momentum so that government could continue to work with partners to address barriers arising from various circumstances, that still impede progress.
“In the regard, providing HID/AIDS services to reach, test and treat HIV positive pregnant women, children, key populations and partners, as well as those in closed custodial settings, is sadly lagging behind, because of limited access to high quality disease prevention and treatment services,” he said.
The minister assured that government would continue to seek programs and ways to facilitate access for this segment of the people.
“We are also particularly committed to ending AIDS in children, who mostly became infected with HIV in the process of being born by mothers who are HIV positive and often did not know it.
“These children would have been spared the infection had their mothers been tested while they were pregnant with the children and the HIV positive ones put in treatment that would have protected them from transmission of infection from mother to child,” he said.
Ehanire further said Nigeria has joined the Global Alliance to end AIDS in Children by 2030, an alliance of currently 12 countries who resolved to take concerted actions for results and mutual accountability.
He added that in order to address the gaps in diagnosing, treating and retaining children and adolescents in HIV care, the ministry, “will prioritise the four pillars of the alliance: testing, treatment and care for children, adolescents and pregnant and breastfeeding women living with HIV; eliminating vertical transmission, and addressing gender equality and the social and structural barriers that hinder access to services.”
On his part, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Mr. Boss Mustapha said despite heartwarming achievements recorded by the country, HIV still remains an unfinished business because of barriers that pose threat to ending AIDS by 2030 if not tackled headlong.
“I therefore urge everyone gathered here to do all that is necessary to ensure equal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services devoid of stigma for children, adolescent and key populations who have been left behind,” he said.
While welcoming stakeholders to the event, the Director General Of National Agency for the Control of AIDS, Dr. Gambo Aliyu said Nigeria was focusing on achieving epidemic control with about 90 per cent of People Living With HIV (PLHIV) already identified and currently on treatment.
“We have recorded significant growth in key population treatment sites from 10 in 2017 providing treatment to about 16,000 PLHIV to 118 sites in 2021 with coverage of over 220,000,” he said.
While highlighting efforts of government, Aliyu recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had launched the N62 Billion HIV Trust Fund of Nigeria in February this year.
“Today we shall witness the launch of the online donation portal of the Fund to ensure no one is left behind in our collective effort to end AIDS by 2030.
“Similarly, in line with alignment 2.0, HIV prevention and treatment is shifting ownership to States and today we shall witness the signing of the sustainability agreement for Taraba and Abia States,” he stated.