Early detection of HIV will reduce maternal mortality—SFH
The Society for Family Health (SFH) says early detection of will reduce infant, child and maternal mortality.
Dr Omokhudu Idogho, Managing Director, SFH, said this at a dissemination meeting on the SFH Lafiyan Yara project, in Abuja.
The SFH Lafiyan Yara project is funded by AIDSFONDS to implement the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV, and provide HIV testing services in eight LGAs of Taraba.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the project is leveraging community intervention mechanisms to provide the services.
Idogho said that it was important to increase access to antenatal care to eliminate new infant infections.
“Similarly, for instance, improved linkages between informal and formal health structures in Taraba state amplify finding of 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,” he said.
According to him, it is also important to educate the people on better health-seeking behaviours and encourage them to seek health services to reduce mortality.
“Contact between caregivers, direct beneficiaries and health workers can lead to an increase in knowledge and motivation to adopt positive behaviours,” he said.
The SFH managing director said when reinforced by influencers within communities and homes, beneficiaries and caregivers become increasingly motivated to adopt socially acceptable HIV prevention and treatment.
Dr Garuba Danjuma, Director-General, Taraba AIDS Control Agency, said that the state has 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.
“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.
“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 said.
He stated that the state had to host significant number of internally displaced persons from crisis-ridden states because of its relatively stable security situation.
“There was 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 which ended in 2017,” the D-G said.
According to him, this has resulted in large number of undiagnosed people living with HIV including children and pregnant women.
In her remarks, Dr Akudo Ikpeazu, Head of National AIDS and STIs Control Programme, Federal Ministry of Health, said Nigeria accounts for 24 per cent of pregnant women living with HIV worldwide not on antiretroviral therapy.
She added that it was also the largest contributor among the seven countries that account for half of all new HIV infections among children globally.
Ikpeazu, who said one in every seven babies born with HIV in the world is a Nigerian baby, assured that government was doing everything possible to change the narrative.
Mrs Aisha Dadi, Programme Manager, SFH, said the broad objective of the project was to ensure that pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and children had access to quality HIV services.
Dadi said Lafiyan Yara project use patent and proprietary medicine vendors, traditional birth attendants and village health workers to identify, refer, link and track beneficiary populations to health facilities.
Dr Olujide Arije, Research Fellow and Consultant Public Health Physician, Institute of Public Health, Obafemi Awolowo University, said the impact evaluation used a minimum sample size of 430 women who have delivered in the last 12 months in Taraba.
Arije said that 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..