The United Nations AIDS Agency has estimated that about 60,000 babies are born with HIV every year in Nigeria.
The global agency, in a report titled, ‘Progress Report in the Global Plan’, said the figure was the highest for any country in the world.
The report identified mother-to-child transmission as the major means in which these babies were being infected with the viral disease.
It stated, “Nigeria has the largest number of children acquiring HIV infection – nearly 60, 000, a number that has remained largely unchanged since 2009. Without urgent action in Nigeria, the global target is unlikely to be reached.
“Nigeria accounts for one-third of all new HIV infections among children in the world, the largest from any country. Progress here is therefore critical to eliminating new HIV infections among children globally.
“Nearly all indicators assessed show stagnation and suggest that the country is facing significant hurdles.”
According to statistics from the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, about 3.2 out of the 34 million people living with the virus in the world are Nigerians.
It stated that the country accounted for 10 per cent of the global burden of HIV/AIDS.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who confirmed that Nigeria had the highest number of children acquiring the infection, said the figures could only be reduced if more Nigerians, especially knew their HIV status.
Adewole, who spoke at a stakeholders meeting in Lagos, said there was also the need to increase funding so that more HIV patients could be placed on antiretroviral medication.
He said, “With the new guidelines, about 500,000 people need to be on treatment and we don’t have the resources. So we chose 100,000. However, we will be meeting with officials from UNAIDS to get more funding. Most importantly, we want Nigerians to know their HIV status.
“This will reduce transmission from mother to child because Nigeria is the highest contributor of paediatric HIV in the world and this cannot continue.”
…WHO issues guidelines on self-testing
Ahead of the World AIDS Day, the World Health Organisation has released new guidelines on HIV self-testing to improve access to diagnosis.
HIV self-testing means people can use oral fluid or blood- finger-pricks to discover their status in a private and convenient setting. Results are ready within 20 minutes or less.
In the new guidelines, those with positive results are advised to seek confirmatory tests at health clinics, information and links to counselling as well as rapid referral to prevention, treatment and care services.
According to a new WHO progress report, lack of diagnosis is a major obstacle to implementing the organisation’s recommendation that everyone with HIV should be offered antiretroviral therapy .
The report revealed that more than 18 million people with HIV are currently taking ART, and a similar number still unable to access treatment, the majority of which are unaware of their HIV positive status.
The WHO Director-General, Dr.Margaret Chan, in a statement on Tuesday stated that over 40 per cent of all people with HIV were unaware of their status adding that many of those at higher risk of infection often found it difficult to access testing services.
Chan said,”Millions of people with HIV are still missing out on life-saving treatment, which can also prevent HIV transmission to others,” said. “HIV self-testing should open the door for many more people to know their HIV status and find out how to get treatment and access prevention services.”