Dr Olawale Fadare, the Senior Technical Advisor, Outcomes and Evaluation, Caritas Nigeria, an NGO, has called for more commitment among Nigerians in order to tackle the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country.
He made the call on Friday in Akwanga, Nasarawa State, while presenting a paper on the “Status of Paediatric HIV in Nigeria: Data, Gaps and Challenges” at the two-day training on paediatric HIV for religious leaders organised by the NGO.
He urged religious leaders to use the knowledge gain in order to educate their followers on the dangers of HIV/AIDS to societal development. Fadare identified low level of political commitment, limited funding and poor understanding of child spacing issues as some of the bottlenecks affecting the policy implementation in the eradication of HIV/AIDS in the country.
“Why is paediatric HIV still a global health issue. The global burden of paediatric HIV disease is high despite the Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) as children less than five years face the highest risk of AIDS related deaths compared to other age-groups. “2.6 million children currently living with HIV constitute 7.5 per cent of the total number of people with HIV as it was 2.3million in 2010.
“Without timely treatment, half the children living with HIV will die before their second birthday, hence the need for all hands to be on deck in order to tackle HIV/AIDS menace,’’ said the expert. According to him, Early Infant Diagnosis (EID) is essential to identify infected infants.
Fadare also said that based on the summary of UNAIDS analysis, the Nigerian situation from 2003 to 2016 indicated that the 10 top states in Nigeria that have widest gaps in paediatric HIV treatment are Sokoto, Bayelsa, Jigawa, Oyo, Borno, Ogun, Yobe, Ondo, Zamfara and Ebonyi.
“Treatment is life saving intervention and all infected infants and children less than two years are eligible for treatment. “Based on data of UNAIDS, only eight per cent of patients are on Anti-retro Viral Therapy (AVR) in Nigeria and only 20.7 per cent of children in need of treatment are on ART compared to 37 per cent eligible adults,’’ he said.
According to the data also from UNAIDS, the 10 top states that have the highest total burden of children infected with HIV are Oyo, Kaduna, Edo, Taraba, Lagos, Sokoto, Kano, Akwa Ibom, Ogun and Ondo.
The health expert called for support and care for care givers for present and future well being of children infected with the virus for the overall development of the country. Participants of the workshop are Catholic priests, Reverend Sisters and other critical stakeholders drawn from Kaduna, Nasarawa and Benue States as well as FCT, Abuja.