The low uptake of timely Ante Natal Care (ANC) services by pregnant women in Nigeria is becoming a case of concern, given the increasing rate of HIV Infections in children and adolescents.
Due to failure to access ANC, 63 percent of HIV positive women do not have access to Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) services usually provided at health facilities for expectant mothers diagnosed to be HIV positive.
An Assistant Director, National Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission (PMTCT) Lead at the National AIDs & STIs Control Programme (NASCP), Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), Dr. Olugbenga Ijaodola, made the disclosure during a 3 day media dialogue organized by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with Journalists Alliance for the Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS (JAPIN) in Calabar, Cross River State.
According to him, a good number of women who tested negative to HIV in the early stages of pregnancy during ANC, are found to test positive to the virus when retested just before delivery.
While stressing that nobody was above getting infected as several factors could be responsible for contracting the virus at any point in time, he noted that out of a total of 2,504,478 pregnant women who tested for HIV, 2,496,679 pregnant women tested negative but out of 41,509 pregnant women who were retested, 149 were found to be positive to the virus.
He said : “Nigeria contributes 22,000 new HIV infections among children. 3 in 4 pregnant women in Nigeria are not captured at Ante Natal Care.
“Two thirds of expected pregnancies are not captured in the PMTCT reporting system however, over 90 percent of pregnant women who do not show up at health facilities reporting PMTCT get tested for HIV. Only 28 percent of HIV exposed infants had access to early infant diagnosed in 2020.
“Pregnant women have lost confidence in the formal public health sector but they have to play down the perception they have and try and come in as early as possible. If they come in early we will be able to test and prevent transmission of HIV to their children.
“We are trying to do testing at birth and push those for treatment; and at six weeks, we will retest both the negative and positive.”
Associate Professor/Consultant Paediatrician, University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, Dr Atana Ewa, , who noted that HIV was one if the major causes of infant and childhood mortality and morbidity in Africa, raised concerns over the increase of HIV infections through men who have sex with men (MSM).
“MSM constitutes only about 1% of the Nigerian population yet this group now constitutes 20% of new HIV infections in Nigeria rising consistently from 14% in 2007 to 17% in 2012 and 23% in 2014.”