Some stakeholders working in the field of HIV in Nigeria have said that strategic partnership is crucial to tackling HIV in children in the country.
They stated this during a media briefing organised by the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) in collaboration with the National AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, and STIs Control Programme (NASCP) of the Federal Ministry of Health.
The roundtable was themed ‘Now is the Time: Fighting Pediatric HIV Through Strategic Partnership’.
Nigeria is among the top six countries that accounted for nearly two-thirds of children acquiring HIV in 2020, accounting for almost one in five.
The national coordinator of NASCP, Dr Adebobola Bashorun, commended EGPAF for it support towards pediatric HIV in the country.
Represented by Dr Peter Nwaokenneya, Deputy Director of Treatment Care and Support at NASCP, he said it’s support, along with other partners, has led to improvement in HIV programs which has in turn led to a reduction in HIV prevalence in the country.
He said Nigeria recorded a reduction in HIV prevalence from 5.8 in 2001 to 1.3 in 2018 following interventions by government, donors and partners.
He said there was a 0.2 % reduction in HIV in children, adding however that despite all the successes recorded, children seem to lag behind.
Nwaokenneya said significant progress has not been made in terms of pediatric HIV, when compared to results for adult HIV, and that a lot of work still needs to be done.
He said the federal government is committed to bridging the gaps in HIV services between the adult and child populations.
A consultant paediatrician at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH), Prof. Rosemary Ugwu said pediatric HIV has gone through a long journey with challenges in between.
She said initially there were drugs for adult HIV but none for children, adding that with high mortality among children, clinicians decided to try mixing adult drugs with syrup for children.
She said over the years, with research and partnerships, first-line and other subsequent-line drugs and treatment regimens became available for children with HIV in the country.
Dr Nguavese Torbunde said there has been remarkable progress in the diagnosis and initiation of antiretroviral therapy in Nigeria but, “we are far from ending new HIV infections in children with a huge disparity in the treatment coverage of children (32%) when compared with adults (94%).”
She said EGPAF is the global leader in the fight against pediatric HIV/ AIDS and has reached more than 27 million pregnant women with services to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies.
She said the foundation was founded in 1988, and today supports activities in 19 countries to implement prevention, care, and treatment services; to further advance innovative research; and to execute global advocacy activities that bring dramatic change to the lives of millions of women, children, and families worldwide.
She said in Nigeria, the foundation provides highly targeted technical support to the sub-national and national stakeholders on HIV response for children, adolescents and pregnant women with the aim of developing sustainable quality interactions.
She said EGPAF Nigeria has implemented the following catalytic projects: Early Infant Diagnosis (EID) Optimization, Delivering Technical Assistance 2 (DELTA2) to Accelerate Progress in PMTCT and Pediatric HIV (AP3), and the Pediatric Breakthrough Partnership aimed at improving access to evidence-based innovations through contextually responsive and sustainable approaches in efforts to end pediatric HIV.
Torbunde said the briefing was an opportunity to engage with the media and to equip them with the knowledge to amplify advocacy messages for children and adolescents.
She said, “Because these are a population being left behind. In Nigeria, we work closely with the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) and it provides coordination, support and leadership for the foundation, making sure that they align with the country’s priorities.”
Aaron Sunday of the Association of Positive Youth in Nigeria (APYIN) said the media has a crucial role to play in addressing stigma and discrimination for adults and children with HIV.
He said they have a role in creating awareness, adding that it is important to empower the media and integrate them fully in HIV programmes including at the community level.
He said addressing stigma and stigmatization would help address HIV as a public health threat as well as new HIV infections.