Tuesday, November 29, 2011

70,000 newborns contract HIV a year in Nigeria

Despite campaigns to stop HIV transmission, more than 70,000 thousand newborn children still contract the virus from their mothers through delivery.

Director-general of National Agency for Control of AIDS (NACA), Prof John Idoko, has attributed the problem to mothers not being able to seek proper intervention to stop the virus from passing onto their children at birth.

Of an estimated 210,000 children born with the virus, at least one-third of the cases occur in Nigeria, a situation Idoko described as "unacceptable."

At a press briefing commemorating World Aids Day 2011, themed Getting to Zero, Idoko said Nigeria must do the same as other countries that have successfully interrupted transmission of the virus from mothers to children.

He added that the technology and intervention for Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission is quite available and operational in the country but was being practised in only 500 centres which was grossly inadequate to cater for the needs of most pregnant women.

NACA dedicated the day to Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission.

"While we have noticed a reduction in HIV prevalence in Nigeria, the high rate in some states is still a source of concern to national HIV response," Idoko said.

"We will try to make testing available for every pregnant woman because it is not acceptable that 60,000 to 70,000 children are born HIV positive annually.

"More women [about 1.72 million] than men are living with HIV in Nigeria as a result of inequity in the social, political and economic status of women in Africa in general and in Nigeria in particular."

He also stated that the agency had established a national call centre for HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases in Nigeria.

When fully operational, subscribers from any network would be able to assess it using mobile service telecoms provider.

The call centre is in its final stages of establishment, said Idoko, adding that it has been granted use of an off-net shortcode 6222 for its operations.

He explained: "This means that when the national call center is commissioned, subscribers from any network will be able to access the call center using the "off-net" short code from any mobile telecoms service provider."

Daily Trust

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