• Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

US CDC  deploys’baby shower’ initiative in Nigeria to tackle mother-to-child HIV transmission

Nigeria still faces challenges to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV
In a bid to combat mother-to-child transmission of HIV, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has rolled out an initiative called the “Baby Shower” in Nigeria.
Currently, Nigeria is among top four countries with over 10,000 new pediatric HIV infections per annum, according to the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). In 2020, the country recorded an estimated 22,000 new HIV infections among children with only about 37 percent of positive women accessing HIV services and care, according to the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH).
Jerry Gwamna, the USCDC Program Deputy Director,  speaking at a media roundtable in Abuja,  identified access to health care services as a major challenge which he noted was a source of concern to the Centre. This he said, birthed the initiative as a way for reaching out to the women who for several reasons including financial constraints, cannot access health services.”We believe it is criminal to have a baby in this day and age  born with HIV, when there is so much we can do to prevent it”, he said.

The US initiative also called the Congregational Approach to Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission  is therefore geared towards preventing the transmission of HIV from mothers to their unborn children. Tim Efuntoye, the Prevention Branch Chief, US CDC Nigeria, explained that the  involves Layering health services, including  testing, on to religious celebrations through a coordinated gatekeeper.

He added that the initiative is leveraging religious organizations, because a significant proportion of Nigerians attend religious activities regutaly and religious leaders have, over time, earned the trust of the community members.

“Hence, faith-based institutions are seen as a ptatform to promote healthy behavioral practices in the community”, he said.

Speaking on the impact of the programme,  the Branch Chief disclosed that from October 2022 to March, 2024, 126 congregations have been activated across 13 states with 94 Baby shower events which had 25,092 participants.

During this event, a religious leader typically invites pregnant women and their partners to the baby shower which features health talks, screening, testing as well as gifting of mama packs . So far, 0.3% of the pregnant women screened at the baby Showers events were identified as HIV positive.

Juliet Friday, a beneficiary of the initiative in the Federal Capital Territory could not hide her excitement on how the programme helped her ensure she and her baby are healthy.

“I am very happy for this baby shower programme. I did not expect it, and they gave me lots of gifts”, she said.

The US CDC, has however urged all pregnant women to pay close attention to their health, attend antenatal sessions regularly, and carry out all required tests including HIV.

The Centre also called on religious Leaders to encourage your congregants to get tested for HIV/ before and during pregnancies, esure stigma-free, non-discriminatory treatment of HIV-positive worshippers.