‘Early detection crucial to reducing paediatric-HIV death’


Tope Omogbolagun

The Society for Family Health has said early detection of HIV/AIDS will help reduce child and maternal mortality.

The Managing Director of SFH, Dr. Omokhudu Idogho, stated this at a one-day dissemination seminar on the Taraba Lafiyan Yara project, in Abuja.

The project was funded by AIDSFONDS to implement the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV, and to provide HIV testing services in eight Local Government Areas in Taraba.

Idogho said that it was important to increase access to antenatal care to eliminate new infant infections.

“This project, for instance, has helped to improve linkages between informal and formal health structures in Taraba state. It also helped us in detecting new HIV-positive cases.

“It also increased antiretroviral uptake, increased the number of virally suppressed women and children living positively, invariably reducing mortality among target groups.”

Idogho added that such projects were important as it also helps to boost health-seeking behaviours and services that reduce mortality.

He added, “Contact between caregivers, direct beneficiaries, and health workers can lead to an increase in knowledge and motivation to adopt positive behaviours.”

A Programme Manager, SFH, Mrs. Aisha Dadi, said the broad objective of the project was to ensure that pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and children had access to quality HIV services.

She said, “Lafiyan Yara project uses patent and proprietary medicine vendors, traditional birth attendants and village health workers to identify, refer, link and track beneficiary populations to health facilities.

We are grateful that the project was a success and the donor has also renewed the project for another three years. We faced some challenges like contact-tracing, insecurity, inability to access some areas but the state government was helpful”

Also, Director-General, Taraba AIDS Control Agency, Dr. Garuba Danjuma, said that the state has an HIV prevalence of 2.9 per cent, the highest in the northeast and fourth highest in the country after Akwa Ibom, Benue and Rivers.

Danjuma said that antenatal care attendance was 44.5 per cent, lower than the average for the northeast geopolitical zone of 62.4 per cent.

He said, “The estimated proportion of the population that are pregnant women and children below 15 years old in the state is five per cent and 41 per cent, respectively.

“Drivers of the HIV epidemic include norms that promote multiple concurrent sexual partnerships, low-risk perceptions, low awareness of HIV, and poor literacy rates.

Danjuma further said, “Also, the Family Life and Health Education impact evaluation study showed that the sexual debut for girls in the state is 12 years.

“This contributes to the high rate of teenage pregnancy in the state. Likewise, there is low awareness of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.”

He stated that the state had to host a significant number of internally displaced persons from crisis-ridden states because of its relatively stable security situation.

Danjuma added, “There were limited or no donor-funded HIV interventions happening in Taraba when the Lafiyan Yara project started, leaving a gap in the continuum of care for HIV.

“The last intensive intervention for HIV was the Sure-P funds for scaling up the treatment of HIV/AIDS which ended in 2017.”

Also, a Research Fellow and Consultant Public Health Physician, Institute of Public Health, Obafemi Awolowo University, Dr. Olujide Arije said the impact evaluation used a minimum sample size of 430 women who have delivered in the last 12 months in Taraba.

He said, “The researchers used existing community structures in promoting active HIV case-finding among children less than 15 years and pregnant women.

“The study recommended the bridging of knowledge gap on mother-to-child transmission of HIV, strengthening community health responders, encouraging behaviour change and removing barriers to HIV testing.”

Also, a representative of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, Mrs. Abiola Davies, said is a coordinating partner of the partners so that we work closely together to ensure part of what we’ve aspect of the contributing to the project.

She stated that the project was a good one and there’s room for improvement and that’s why the projects are in phases. 

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