…results in more infant infection- experts
About 2.9 million, out of the 3.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria are not receiving the treatment needed to suppress the disease, as a result, more babes are born with HIV/AIDS, experts say.
Speaking during a scientific symposium organized by Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), in collaboration with Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Lagos branch, the experts worried that women especially pregnant and nursing mothers are not receiving treatment and this has led to increased mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS. About 60,000 new child infections occurred annually through Mother-To-Child-Transmission (MTCT), they said.
During her presentation, Dr. Sylvia Adebajo, from Population Council Abuja, said that about 227,518, new infections occur annually in Nigeria, with only 500,000 people currently on treatment.
These carriers which include pregnant women and nursing mothers are not only at risk of death from HIV related illnesses, they are also infecting their new born babies, causing a surge of the disease.
These carriers are refusing to access treatment because they are currently living in denial, she said.
“Without treatment, about 174, 253 people will die annually from the disease. Men serve as reservoir for the spread of the disease. They do not go to hospital as much as women so they are the most difficult to reach. Those at higher risks include; women, homosexuals, men who engage with drugs and those who have sex with female sex workers”, she said.
According to her, the attitude of testing people and letting them go without follow up need to be stopped, and more people, particularly men need to be reached with treatment.
On how to prevent more new infection, Dr. Oladipo Fisher, from Lagos State AIDS Agency (LASACA), said early initiation of HIV positive people into antiretroviral drugs will decrease rate of new infection, as well as reduce HIV-related illnesses and deaths. “with the correct application of the new treatment guideline we can be able to achieve the UNAIDS target of 90:90:90, which ensures that 90 per cent of the global population are tested for HIV, with 90 per cent of those who test positive having access to treatment and 90 per cent of those tested having their viral load suppressed”, he said.
In the same vein, Consultant Haematologist at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Prof. Sulaimon Akanmu, noted that people who test positive to HIV/AIDS can possibly eliminating the disease from their body, if they commence treatment immediately they are diagnosed. “This will help bring their viral load to an undetectable level, where they will likely not infect other people, and is in line with the World Health Organization (WHO)’s new treatment guideline for HIV/AIDS”, he said.
Amina Ali, Chairperson, Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, (NEPHWAN), Lagos Chapter also called for removal of lab fees and consultation fee. Allowing people to pay for these treatments has resulted in default, causing more resistant and death from the disease.