A civil Society Organisation, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has disclosed that HIV testing is still at a suboptimal level with no fewer than 80,000 HIV/AIDS infected children unidentified.
Nigeria has the largest burden of gap in HIV treatment coverage amongst children generally under 14 years in the entire world. The NAIS survey shows that over 100,000 children is estimated to be living with HIV.
The survey also shows that only 47 percent to 50 percent of them are currently covered on Antiretroviral therapy (ART). This means that at least half of the children living with HIV in the country aged 0 to 14 are yet to be found.
The Project Director of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) FASTER Project, Dr. Emeka Anoje, disclosed this during a virtual conference on HIV self-testing during covid-19, organized by Civil Society For HIV/AIDS in Nigeria(CiSHAN).
According to Anoje, an estimated 1.2 million persons are on Antiretroviral therapy (ART) as the country still relies on donor support to champion HIV/AIDS programmes.
“If you look at the burden of HIV being put against the population of 200 million in the country, what our survey has shown us is that there are still an estimated 80,000 children living with HIV who are yet to be found.
“We also do know from information from the different HIV treatment programs in Nigeria, an estimated 1.2 million persons are on Antiretroviral therapy (ART), but what we also know is that there still remains a gap with respect to coverage for ART, which is hinged on the fact that HIV testing is still suboptimal, as quite a number of people are yet to know their HIV status.”
Anoje further said the onset of the covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria and the consequent restrictions on movement and interactions of people as well as the financial and human resources down turn in the health sector has further created barrier to HIV testing in the country.
He stressed that instructive and innovative approaches are essential if there must be an increase the scope of HIV Testing Services across the country.
“When these strategies are designed in a way that they target populations who ordinarily have no access to HIV testing and who ordinarily are at a higher risk of contracting HIV. These could include children, adolescents, as well as other key populations.
Anoje while advocating for better awareness creation and access to HIV self-testing kits said, “The organisation has provided 100,000 test kits free of charge to pregnant women and adolescents, especially those who will not have been reached by the conventional means of testing. This includes about 10,000 HIV self-test kits which will be distributed across Delta state.
“We believe that HIV self-testing approach provides an opportunity to help us as a country find the over 80,000 living with HIV who are yet to be found. HIV self-testing approaches allows an individual to collect his or her own specimen, typically an oral fluid, and then performs HIV testing in the comfort of their homes or anywhere, and then interprets the results either alone or with somebody that they trust. Thereafter they receive information on how to act on the outcome of the results – whether it be positive or negative.”
“The 10,000 test kits that FASTER has provided will be given out free of charge to everyone who takes it. It is focused on women and adolescence – pregnant women, especially those who will not have been reached by the conventional means of testing. It is free of charge, however, there are still discussions around pricing so that eventually the market-based approach will arrive at a price that is indeed affordable and accessible to everyone who needs one.
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