FG raises concern over HIV programme funding


By Racheal Oyelola

The Federal Ministry of Health has raised concerns over the inability of state governments to respond to the provision of adequate funding for HIV programmes, especially the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission, PMTCT, in their domains.

Dr Ijaodola Olugbenga, who leads the PMTCT team at the National AIDS and STIs Control Program, also decried the low pediatric HIV case identification rate and lack of comprehensive data reporting on cases in the country.

He explained that many babies are born HIV positive because their mothers had no access to care and were not on treatment before the babies were born.

Insisting that positive pregnant women must be placed on treatment, Dr. Olugbenga said encouraging them to deliver in health facilities will ensure that positive babies are identified on time and treated.

“HIV/AIDS intervention cannot stand on its own, it needs the collaboration of every implementing partner. So irrespective of challenges in our health system, we say pregnant women must have access to testing and those who turn out positive must be placed on treatment and encouraged to deliver in health facilities for early infant diagnosis services.”

Olugbenga has however said the goal of the government is to ensure 95% antenatal coverage, 95% HIV testing and PMTCT coverage.

To achieve this, he said every key stakeholder in the maternal and child health sector at the state, local government, facility level as well as implementing partners are on board to ensure that every pregnant woman is reached.

The health expert who also blamed low antenatal uptake and low health facility delivery by mothers as reasons for HIV in infants, said 3 in 4 pregnant women in Nigeria are not captured in antenatal care, while 63% of HIV positive women do not access PMTCT services.

“In 2020, only 28 per cent  of HIV exposed infants had access to early infant diagnosis while mothers who become positive during breastfeeding pass the virus to their babies who were originally born negative,”Dr Olugbenga explained.

But he says a new guideline is in the works by the federal government to see that newborns are tested at birth to avoid missing those who are positive.

“The gateway to PMTCT is to ensure that every pregnant woman is tested, we start this new drive with new test kits that can test two diseases, HIV? AIDs and Syphilis, using a single drop of blood. We believe this will improve our testing coverage across board’’

“There is more work to be done to ensure more women visit health facilities and stakeholders know this.”