The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire has urged pregnant women in the country to go for HIV screening during antenatal care to protect the lives of their babies from the infection.

Ehanire made the call on Monday in Abuja during a press briefing organised to update the nation on the COVID-19 pandemic and health sector development.

Findings from the National AIDS and STIs Control Programme show

that more than 63 per cent of HIV-positive women are not accessing services to prevent babies from acquiring the infection during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.

According to the NASCP, three out of four pregnant women do not show up for antenatal care services, and one out of three pregnant women are not on the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission services to prevent newborns from acquiring HIV.

The minister, however, said the Federal Government was working to change the narrative, noting that it is unacceptable that three in four pregnant women in Nigeria are not captured during antenatal care. 

Ehanire said, “The Federal Government, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders are working to change the narrative about PMTCT coverage in Nigeria.

“The Federal Ministry of Health, through the NASCP plan to deploy to federal and state health care institutions about 2.5 million dual test kits for testing both HIV and syphilis in pregnant women.

“I urge pregnant women to always attend antenatal clinics at nearest health facilities and to ensure that they subject themselves to HIV test in order to protect lives of their babies from HIV infection.”

In 2020, Nigeria recorded an estimated 22,000 new HIV infections among children according to the NASCP report.

Low uptake of early infant diagnosis services, low antenatal services uptake, low antiretroviral therapy coverage for positive pregnant women, low rate of facility deliveries, the report said, have been attributed to the increase.

Giving an update on COVID-19, the minister said the FG had received over 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, adding that based on delivery forecasts from the COVAX facility and the African Union, Nigeria will have adequate vaccines to cover more than 50 per cent of eligible populations by the end of the first quarter of 2022.

“As at 17th October 2021, a total of 5,337,635 eligible populations have received the first dose representing 4.8 per cent of Nigeria’s target population while 2,665,173 have been vaccinated with the second dose signifying 2.4 per cent of the target vaccination of 70 percent of the population by 2022. 

“We encourage Nigerians who received the vaccines to complete the second doses and all Nigerians that are eligible to avail themselves to receive the vaccines.

“As we are aware, COVID-19 is a pandemic, the Government is concerned about the safety of everyone and does not want to risk escalation of the infection that will threaten public health.

“We need to protect each other and make sacrifices today for tomorrow. We need to continue to take proactive steps to remain free from the infection and protect others from the infection,” Ehanire said.

The minister reiterated that COVID-19 vaccines and cards are free of charge irrespective of the location of the vaccination sites both at public and private health facilities in the country.

 

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By PharmaTimes

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