By Dan-Maryam Zayamu
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 12 months.
She made the call made at a three-day media dialogue for journalists which was organised by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in collaboration with the United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF), in Calabar.
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 cant occur.”
She further advice healthcare givers to include HIV screening for children who present to the hospital with malaria, typhoid or pneumonia symptoms.
This, she said is to detect and provide early treatment for children infected with HIV.
“The most reliable form of managing children with HIV is when you see a child presenting to a health facility, while you look for malaria and typhoid or pneumonia, also counsel and do HIV test so that we can pick them early and offer the treatment that will help their survival. Adolescents, do the same,” she stressed.
On his part, the Assistant Director and National PMTCT Lead, National AIDS and STI Programme of the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Gbenga Ijaobola, has said that in order to access healthcare services that will prevent the Transmission of HIV from Mother To Child, pregnant women in Nigeria have been advised to visit healthcare centres nearest to them to seek for services.
This is even as two-thirds of expected pregnancies are not captured in the PMTCT reporting system. However, over 90% of the pregnant women who visit health facilities reporting PMTCT get tested for HIV.
“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,” he explained.
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.”
By Dan-Maryam Zayamu