Preventing new HIV infections among children and saving mothers’ lives were high on the agenda in a two-day mission to Nigeria by Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director, and Ambassador Eric Goosby, the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. The visit occurred nearly one year after world leaders—including Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr Sidibé and Ambassador Goosby—launched The Global Plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children and keeping their mothers alive.
Each year, nearly 400 000 children are born with HIV globally. Nigeria carries about one third of the global burden of new HIV infections among children. It is one of 22 priority countries of The Global Plan which, combined, account for nearly 90% of all new HIV infections among children annually.
During the mission, Ambassador Goosby and Mr Sidibé met with Nigeria’s First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan, who leads the country’s prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) acceleration strategy, to identify bottlenecks to PMTCT scale up at both the national level and in priority states. Discussions with the First Lady centered on how to optimize and increase all available resources for PMTCT in the country.
“I will remain steady in my resolve to continue to provide the necessary leadership and support to achieve our national target of eliminating mother to child transmission of HIV in Nigeria,” said the First Lady.
The First Lady also thanked the participants of the mission for their commitment to assisting Nigeria in the critical area of health development, which is a key element of President Jonathan’s “Transformation Agenda.”
“There are no longer technical or scientific barriers preventing us from eliminating the transmission of HIV from mother to child,” said Ambassador Goosby, who heads the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). “Working together, we will address head-on the challenges to achieving elimination in Nigeria and identify the most effective way forward. Preventing new HIV infections in children is a smart investment that saves lives and gives them a healthy start in life.”
In meetings with leaders from private sector and civil society, including the interfaith community, Ambassador Goosby and Mr Sidibé stressed the importance of working in partnership to accelerate progress in the AIDS response. The delegation also met with members of the Nigerian National Steering Group of The Global Plan, which was launched earlier this month to accelerate and coordinate action on PMTCT by all partners in the country.
While calling for greater global solidarity in the AIDS response, Mr Sidibé also emphasized that country ownership would be essential to accelerate national action around PMTCT. “Our twin goals of zero new HIV infections among children and eliminating AIDS-related maternal deaths can only succeed if countries mobilize the required resources and political will,” he said.
According to government figures, an estimated 16% of pregnant women living with HIV in Nigeria received antiretroviral medicines to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV in 2011. There are approximately 3.5 million people living with HIV in Nigeria.
In May 2012, an annual Global Plan progress review will be held on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly in Geneva. Ministers of Health from the 22 priority countries identified in The Global Plan will convene to assess gains made in the first year of the plan’s implementation and to chart a course for continued progress.