HIV&AIDS has remained one of the world’s most significant public health challenges of the 20th and 21st century. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 35.3 million poeople were living with HIV in the world by the end of year 2012 and more than 2 million were adolescents.
Despite these seemingly high figures, successes have been recorded in increasing the number of infected people using antiretroviral drugs and accessing PMTCT services. A statement released by WHO reveals that 62% of the estimated 1.5 million pregnant women living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries received effective antiretroviral drugs to avoid transmission to their children in 2012, up from 48% in 2010.
The report also confirmed that more than 9.7 million people living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries were receiving ART at the end of 2012 and about 640 000 were children, resulting into over 30-fold increase in the number of people receiving ART in developing countries between 2003 and 2012, and close to a 20% increase in just one year (from 8 million in 2011 to 9.7 million in 2012).
The National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) in its Score Card for 2009 – 2012 reported that the number of people living with HIV/AIDS receiving anti-retroviral drugs in Nigeria increased from 230,000 at the end of 2008 to 500,000 at the end of 2011, while the number of sites for providing drugs had increased from 296 at the end of 2008 to 491 at the end of 2011.
The agency also confirmed that Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV had increased from 7% in 2008 to 32% in 2012, while the number of PMTCT centres had increased from 533 in 2008 to 800 in 2012.
This year’s World AIDS Day presents an opportunity to strengthen results for an AIDS-free generation, which can be achieved if attention is focused on preventing new infections among the people, particularly adolescents who will form greater part of future population. “Young people need to be better equipped to manage their HIV infection and take ownership of their health care,” says Dr. Elizabeth Mason, Director of WHO Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health Department.
Strengthening results for an AIDS free generation also involves prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV. The goal of eliminating vertical transmission of HIV and reducing by half AIDS-related maternal deaths lie in the ability to increased access to PMTCT services.
It would be recalled that reducing unintended pregnancies among women living with HIV is one of four essential components of effective PMTCT programs, according to World Health Organization. Experts have also said that integrated contraceptive and HIV treatment and care services to women living with HIV enables them to decide if and when to have children, avoid unintended pregnancy, and prevent other sexually transmitted infections.
Thus, preventing unintended pregnancies among women living with HIV is vital to reducing mother-to-child transmission and a core component of the international standards for a comprehensive approach to preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Speaking on the benefit of shared responsibility of preventing HIV transmission in relation to Family Planning on this year’s World AIDS Day, the Advocacy Advisor, Nigeria Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI), Ms. Ibeawuchi Charity stated that the World AIDS Day presents the opportunity for everyone to be informed and make voluntary and informed decisions about family life issues, including family planning. She added that ‘Family Panning is not just about the needs of the woman, but also a shared responsibility of the man and woman in the family’.
As the country joins the rest of the world to mark the World AIDS Day 2013, it will be beneficial for us to see zero-new infection as a Shared Responsibility. There is an urgent need for people to engage in positive behaviours, know their status and engage in self-driven decisions and efforts to prevent HIV infections for an AIDS-free Nigeria.
About DevComs Network
Development Communications (DEVCOMS) Network is a media-development, capacity-building non-governmental organization coordinated by experienced development journalists. The organization is a product of series of development projects on media (both print and broadcast – including video documentaries, drama for development and radio productions) health promotion, advocacy and capacity building in the Nigerian mass media and the civil society sector from 1995 to date.