By Zayamu Hassan
Pregnant women in Nigeria have been advised to visit nearest healthcare centres to seek for services, in order to access healthcare services and prevent the transmission of HIV from Mother to Child.
The Assistant Director and National PMTCT Lead, National AIDS and STI Programme of the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Gbenga Ijaobola, made the call at a three-day media dialogue for journalists in Calabar.
The three-day dialogue was put together by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in collaboration with the United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF).
Dr Ijaobola said over 90 per cent of the pregnant women who visit health facilities reporting PMTCT get tested for HIV.
He explained that: “It is not that we are having an increase in HIV but one thing we have noticed from our data is that our coverage is slightly going up, it means that we are reaching many people but we still have a lot to do.
“The message is that we still have a lot of women to reach, especially now that a lot of our women don’t come to health facilities.
“We are calling to our women to come to the healthcare facilities where they can be able to have access to services.”
While reiterating the need to ensure that HIV infected pregnant women have access to treatment, the expert said: “We need to ensure that we continue to link them up and ensure that they are treated and provided with the right drugs.
“We know that we don’t have a cure yet, but if you can consistently stay on the drugs as it is being prescribed and directed, we can assure you that you will be able to live a quality life and your baby will come out HIV negative when the baby is diagnosed across board.”
On the other hand, a Consultant and Associate Professor in Infectious disease and Respiratory at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH), Atana Ewa, has advised HIV positive mothers not to breastfeed their babies for more than one year.
This, according to her, is to prevent the HIV-free children from being infected with the disease by their mothers.
According to Ewa: “A mother who is HIV positive can breastfeed under ART cover. She must know her viral load and she must know that she is taking drugs. But no matter how much she loves the breastfeeding or the child, she should not pass one year.
“She must stop at 12 months. Exclusive breastfeeding for six months and she continues, but not beyond one year.”
She, however, warned HIV positive mothers not to breastfeed for more than 12 months because, according to her: “The longer you breastfeed, you are increasing the chances of passing the virus to the child.
“Even though she is on ART cover, let it not be too long because nobody knows the level below which infection can occur or can’t occur.”