PMTCT: Nigerian Journalists Seek Closer Collaborations With AIDS Control Bodies | Independent Newspapers Limited
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PMTCT: Nigerian Journalists Seek Closer Collaborations With AIDS Control Bodies

Posted: Dec 24, 2015 at 12:59 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)
JAPiN members drawn from various media organisations listen to UNICEF HIV focal person, Dr. Abiola Davies during a recent meeting in Enugu

JAPiN members drawn from various media organisations listen to UNICEF HIV focal person, Dr. Abiola Davies, during their recent meeting in Enugu

Journalists covering HIV, AIDS and related issues in Nigeria have expressed concern over the communication gap in the management of the epidemic, especially in the Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission (PMTCT) of the virus across the country.

This, they said have constituted a major draw-back in efforts towards elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV (eMTCT) and by implication, the country’s overall goal of reversing the burden of the epidemic.

Figures from the National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) indicate that not less than 3.4 million Nigerians are currently living with HIV, representing a national prevalence of 3.2 per cent of the country’s entire population.  This makes Nigeria the country with the second highest burden of HIV globally, after South Africa.

The journalists, who met on December 9-1, 2015 in Enugu, said the not too savoury relationship between managers of the country’s AIDS control and the media in their coverage of issues on Mother-To-Child Transmission (MTCT) of HIV could further rob Nigeria of gains made towards reversing the HIV burden.

In a communiqué, the journalists, under the aegis of Journalists Alliance for Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission of HIV in Nigeria (JAPiN), noted that “the morbidity and mortality associated with pediatrics HIV infection have eroded most of the previous gains made by Nigeria towards elimination of MTCT in the country,” citing communication as an aspect of the intervention that must be adequately harnessed for better results in future.

“Nigeria has been left behind in efforts to mitigate the burden of HIV and AIDS through PMTCT because of poor aggregation and coordination of efforts.

“A huge gap in advocacy due to poor coordination is hurting efforts to redress MTCT situation in Nigeria, in which case JAPiN has observed a huge communication gap in PMTCT efforts towards eMTCT in Nigeria due to poor cooperation from frontline managers of HIV and AIDS in Nigeria,” they group stated in the communiqué signed by its National Coordinator, Mr. Sola Ogundipe.

Although the group pointed out that the decline in funding of PMTCT activities and other HIV interventions by international donors has constituted a major set-back for HIV/AIDS interventions in Nigeria, they are convinced that, with proper coordination backed by effective communication, the country can fast-track progress towards eMTCT.

“With effective documentation of milestones, gaps, lessons and prospects towards eMTCT using the mass media as first line approach, Nigeria can more than double its achievements in reversing the HIV burden using complimentary strategies,” they group stated.

Part of the recommendations by the group is for PMTCT interventions in Nigeria to be guided by the new UNAIDS target of 90:90:90, which is to ensure that 90 per cent of the global population is tested for HIV, 90 per cent of those who test positive have access to treatment and for 90 per cent to be virally suppressed.

“Since HIV is not a stand-alone goal under Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), there is the need to sustain its visibility by prioritising interventions towards meeting related goals and targets, using the broader Maternal Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) scheme” they stated, adding that there is an urgent need for closer relationships between managers of HIV and AIDS control agencies at the national, state and local government levels and the media.

 Figures from the Joint United Nations AIDS Organisation (UNAIDS) shows that not less than 1.7 million women and 380,000 children are currently living with HIV in Nigeria. The body also noted that up to 60,000 new infections are recorded among children yearly, making Nigeria the country with the largest number of MTCT cases. Meanwhile, the rate of MTCT in Nigeria has remained high at 30 per cent.