Nigeria accounts for more than a quarter of all new Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) infections among children globally and only half of pregnant women living with the virus are tested for the disease.
A new report by the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) titled “Get on the fast track: The life-cycle approach to HIV” published yesterday noted that testing remains a major issue.
It noted that globally, access to HIV medicines to prevent mother-to-child transmission has increased to 77 per cent in 2015, that is up from 50 per cent in 2010; and as a result, new HIV infections among children have declined by 51 per cent since 2010.
The report said of the 150,000 children who were newly infected with HIV in 2015, about half got the virus through breastfeeding.
It stressed that infections through breastfeeding can be avoided if mothers living with HIV are supported to continue taking antiretroviral medicines, allowing them to breastfeed safely and ensure that their children receive the important protective benefits of breast milk.
“Get on the fast track: The life-cycle approach to HIV” stressed that more efforts are needed to expand HIV testing for pregnant women, increase treatment for children and improve on early infant diagnosis by using new diagnostic tools and innovative methods such as Short Message Service (SMS) reminders to retain mothers living with HIV and their babies in care.
The report encouraged countries to adopt the targets of the Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free framework led by UNAIDS and the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief to reduce the number of new HIV infections among children, adolescents and young women, and ensure lifelong access to antiretroviral therapy if they are living with HIV.
The new report by UNAIDS, however, showed that countries are getting on the fast track, with an additional one million people accessing treatment in just six months (January to June 2016).
It noted: “By June 2016, around 18.2 million (16.1 million–19.0 million) people had access to the life-saving medicines, including 910,000 children, double the number five years earlier.”