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Govt mulls drug administration on HIV babies at birth

Abuja – Against the backdrop of a baby `cured’ of HIV in the U.S., Nigeria mulls the administration of anti-retroviral drugs on HIV-positive babies at birth, according to NACA.

“The lesson we have learnt from this is that maybe we should start treating children as soon as we know that they are HIV positive without waiting,” Prof. John Idoko, the Director-General National Agency for the Control of AIDS, said  in Abuja.

On March 3, it was reported that a Mississippi baby born with HIV more than two years ago appears to have been cured of the virus, following the administration of drugs 30 hours after birth.

“We should quicken the diagnosis so that we can manage the disease as early as possible,” Idoko said.

He said there were other cases that were in the same category, where some children were non-progressors.

A non-progressor is someone who has been infected with HIV for seven to 12 years without developing full-blown AIDS.

Idoko, however, suggested that caution should be exercised: “ we need to wait and see what happens to this child and other children that will go the same way”.

He said the treatment given to the child seemed to have profound effect on HIV.

 “Don’t forget this child still has HIV, the only thing is that it is not multiplying enough to cause the child any problem, and that is why it is called a functional cure.’’

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has commended the recent research finding of possible ‘functional’ cure of HIV and AIDS.

This is contained in a statement signed by the president of the association, Dr Osahon Enabulele on Friday.

“NMA commends the team of U.S. researchers for its research efforts and finding, which undoubtedly opens a new vista in the global efforts to produce a cure for HIV and AIDS.”

The NMA, however, called for greater research efforts in Nigeria and the need to replicate similar studies in the country and other parts of Africa.

Enabulele said that the NMA had directed its Research and HIV and AIDS Committee to understudy the research finding for possible replication in Nigeria.

He said such would be done in collaboration with relevant research institutions, universities and the NACA.

The NMA called on government at all levels, universities and research institutions and agencies, particularly NACA, to invest more in research aimed at discovering a global cure for the virus.

“We urge further research studies in Nigeria and other African countries.

“What is immediately obvious is that the current finding by the U.S team potentially offers, in the least, tremendous hope to infants and children infected with HIV and AIDS.

“Expectedly, this will help to reduce Infant and child mortality and the global burden of HIV and AIDS.

“Truly, it will help accelerate progress towards the attainment of the MDGs, particularly Goals Four and Six.”

The NMA said that the research underscored the need for adequate and appropriate testing and investigation of pregnant mothers, especially the assessment of their retroviral status.

It said that such would also also facilitate early detection and treatment of infected pregnant mothers as well as their newborn infants.

“This is especially important in resource-poor and developing countries with limited capacity for highly intensive and well funded researches into HIV and AIDS,’’ the NMA noted in the statement. (NAN)


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