By Sola Ogundipe
The National Agency for the Control of AIDS, NACA, has described the upcoming launch of National Plan for the country’s Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV, eMTCT, initiative as being in line with the Global Plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive.
Debunking reports that the event was a political jamboree disguised as HIV/AIDS Conference in the Federal Capital Territory, Director General, NACA, Prof John Idoko said the launch is part of the continuous effort by the Federal Government of Nigeria through NACA, to reduce by 90 percent the number of new HIV infections among children and to reduce AIDS-related maternal deaths by 50 percent.
“The Federal Government is definitely not spending N1.59 billion a one-day jamboree disguised as HIV/AIDS conference. What will be launched in November is a comprehensive programme to eliminate Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV, which will be implemented over a period of two years. The initiative is about saving Nigerians’ lives.
“NACA operates an open-door policy and is media-friendly. Facts about the planned programme are available on request. Government and donor partners are stepping up efforts to win the battle against HIV/AIDS in Nigeria,” he observed.
Idoko, who argued that data from the 2013 UNAIDS progress report on the Global Plan shows that as at the end of 2012, Nigeria accounted for 30 percent of new infections in the 21 priority countries in sub-Saharan Africa, said in 2012, there were 60,000 new HIV infections among children.
“Achieving the Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission, eMTCT, is inextricably linked with and directly contributes to the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, especially MDG 3 (gender equality), MDG 4 (reduced child mortality), MDG 5 (improved maternal health) and MDG 6 (combat HIV/AIDS).
“This positions eMTCT as an important part of the maternal and child health and the overall development agenda,” he argued, noting that steps taken to address this issue include intensified efforts to rapidly scale-up Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission, PMTCT services, which started in early 2012.
“You are aware that the President’s Comprehensive Plan For HIV/AIDS, PCRP, was launched in 2013 and this marked a major commitment by the Government to accelerate the implementation of key interventions against HIV, including eMTCT.”
Noting that the percentage of clients under treatment had gone up, Idoko said in 2013, an additional 150,000 people living with HIV/AIDS benefited from the life saving antiretroviral drugs purchased by the Federal and state governments.
He said an estimated 3.4 million Nigerians are living with HIV/AIDS. while the total number of people living with HIV/AIDS benefitting from treatment facilitated by the Federal Government and international partners is currently over 650,000.