By Victor IHIDERO, Kaduna
About 6,500 babies are at risk of being infected with HIV through Mother to Child Transmission (MTCT) if appropriate interventions are not implemented to increase access to PMTCT services in Kaduna State, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Officer-In-Charge, UNICEF Kaduna Field Office, Theresa Pamma, stated this during a sensitization meeting with Local Government Chairmen and Stakeholders on Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV and Adolescents HIV services in Kaduna State, held on Tuesday.
Pamma said the burden of MTCT of HIV is higher in sub-Saharan Africa than the rest of the world. This according to her, is due to high level of heterosexual transmission, high prevalence of HIV in women of reproductive age, high total fertility rate and poor access to effective services aimed at preventing MTCT.
According to Pamma, in 2017, UNAIDS estimated that Nigeria’s coverage of PMTCT services was about 30 per cent; saying Kaduna State is one of the few states with a coverage at 66 per cent which stood above the national coverage.
The UNICEF Kaduna Field Officer said this is remarkable compared to about 12 per cent in 2012, however, there is an urgent need for Government to address the human resource gaps in health services, increase its financial and political commitment to HIV and AIDs as well as other child survival interventions like immunization, water, sanitation, hygiene and nutrition.
She added that transmission of HIV in children has become a critical health problem undermining the positive impact of child survival strategy.
“The Prevention of Mother-To-Child transmission) of HIV is one of the control strategies that have justified all the investments made.
“Many countries have shown that the high rate of up to 40 per cent of vertical transmission from an infected pregnant woman to her breastfed newborn can be brought down to less than 2 per cent if necessary political will, commitment and resources are directed to the implementation of these PMTCT strategies.
“A combination of these interventions will enable all children to have equal opportunities to survive and thrive thus, every child can grow up healthy and reach their full potential,” she said.
In his own remarks, the Joint UN Programe on AIDS, (UNAIDS), Country Coordinator, Dr. Erasmus Morah, commended Kaduna State Government for being able to attained a 66 per cent coverage of PMTCT which stood above national coverage, making Kaduna one of the few states in the Federation to attained such a feat.
Speaking through the Strategic Intervention Adviser, (UNAIDS), Dr Modupe Oduwole, he said the reason UNAIDS is working with Kaduna State is because of it responsive and proactive when it comes to the issue of HIV in the state.