Towards a Zero-HIV Generation

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Every December 1 has become a very important day worldwide. This day, set aside to commemorate the ravaging effects of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which is responsible for the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), also brings to the global radar the progress of the struggle against the menace. As the world awaits another World AIDS Day, which comes up in two day’s time, on Thursday, for us in Nigeria, it is a time to celebrate the triumphs of the national effort against HIV/AIDS coordinated by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS(NACA) and further deliberate on efficacious approaches towards a HIV-free Nigeria.

However, it is heart-warming to note that the story of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria is gradually becoming a tale of success. Experts on HIV/AIDS issues-both medical and social-have continually given NACA rousing commendation at different for a, locally and internationally. Through the support of donor agencies like the Global Fund, USAID, DFID, PEPFAR, etc, NACA has effectively demonstrated unalloyed commitment to the HIV/AIDS challenge by reducing the prevalence rate from an all-time high of 5.6 percent to the present manageable rate of 3.6 percent. This feat was achieved by NACA through the combined effect of the pragmatic approaches of the NACA management led by the learned professor of medicine, Dr. John Idoko and the cooperation of donor agencies albeit global economic challenges.

The World AIDS Day, established by the World Health Organisation, WHO, in 1988, will be marked around the world this year under the overarching theme ‘Getting to Zero’. As different tactics are being deployed globally to abort the established transmission routes of HIV vis-à-vis unprotected sexual intercourse, blood transfusion and mother-to-child Transmission so as to bring about zero rate of new HIV-infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths, Nigeria is not left out in this global struggle.

It is a glaring fact that NACA has dedicated considerable attention to issues of HIV transmission with the Agency’s heightened awareness campaign and investment in new research initiatives all aimed at preventing new infections and managing the conditions of those living with the virus. This World AIDS Day thus presents an ample opportunity to redirect attention to another avenue of transmission: Mother-to-child transmission.

Interestingly, the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) has been the passion of the Professor Idoko stewardship in NACA. In this regard, significant efforts have been made to ensure safer maternal and infant health even when the mother is HIV-positive. The development of an implementation framework by NACA which targets to “provide access to at least 90 percent of all pregnant women for quality counselling and testing by 2015;provide access to at least 90 percent of HIV-infected pregnant women for more efficacious anti-retroviral therapy(ARV)prophylaxis by 2015;provide access to at least 90 percent HIV-infected infants to ARV by 2015 and to provide access to at least 90 percent of HIV-infected women for qualitative breast-feeding counselling by 2015”. Since the Federal Ministry of Health started implementation of PMTCT in 2002 in eleven tertiary health institutions across Nigeria, some achievements have been made. Presently, PMTCT is being

implemented in 684 sites of tertiary, secondary and primary healthcare facilities across Nigeria. The goal of contributing to improved maternal health and infant survival of PMTCT is been realized to the later.

There is no doubt that if thoroughly implemented as earlier preventive initiatives, the prevention of Mother-to-child transmission of HIV is capable of drastically reducing the incidence of HIV transmission in Nigeria and the world over.

It thus beckons on relevant stakeholders in the HIV/AIDS fight like the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, NGOs, community based organizations (CBOs), Network of People Living with HIV and civil society groups to collaborate with NACA to realise the targets of PMTCT. In this vain, for instance, the efficient distribution of ARVs by primary healthcare centres in rural areas can further aid NACA’s vision by extending care and support to these highly vulnerable rural dwellers.

As we mark the World AIDS Day in Nigeria, it is also imperative to make a clarion call to donor agencies and government at all levels to redouble their support for NACA to enable the Agency realize the target of bringing down the rate of prevalence to a manageable rate by 2015 through preventing new infections and managing existing cases.


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