The Director-General of the National Agency for the Control of HIV/AIDS, Sani Aliyu, has expressed his concern over the rate of mother to child transmission of HIV in Nigeria.
Mr. Aliyu, who was appointed to the position in July, stated this on Friday in Abuja at the Annual Health Correspondents Dinner.
Recently, a UNICEF HIV specialist, Abiola Davies, had disclosed that Nigeria accounted for one third of new HIV cases among children in the world.
“Nigeria is among countries with slow mother-to-child transmission decline. This is responsible for the country accounting for one third of the new HIV infections among children worldwide’, Mrs. Davies had said at an event in Abuja.
Speaking in similar vein on Friday, Mr. Aliyu, who until his appointment was a consultant in Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at Cambridge University, said the agency under his leadership would give priority to curbing mother-to-child transmission of the virus.
“One of the things I’m really keen to sort out as the Director General is the issue of mother to child transmission. In this era where we have antiretroviral that is effective, it’s unforgivable for any mother to born a child with HIV”, he said at the dinner.
“Anyone who is pregnant should have an HIV test”.
The Director-General said the agency was collaborating with other health agencies towards solving the HIV problems in Nigeria.
“I am pleased to say that for the first time, there is a lot of collaboration between different agencies and government. Primary healthcare agencies are willing for us to engage with primary healthcare facilities.
“National Health Insurance Scheme, for the first time, is also showing some interest in terms of solving HIV problems. We will give our best for our country and for the people”, he added.
Mr. Aliyu also cited the manner of recent appointments into the agency as a sign that something positive was beginning to happen in Nigeria.
According to the Director-General, none of the persons recently appointed to top positions at the agency lobbied for the the appointments or knew anyone in government.
“Some of us were appointed at the end of July. None of us lobbied for the posts, none of us even approached anybody in the government’, he said.
“So that’s something very new for this country and something promising as well, because if you are asked to do a job that you didn’t ask for in the first place, it means people are challenging you.
“People expect you to deliver and that’s why they are giving you the job. And that’s why I am taking the job and I intend to deliver”, Mr. Aliyu said.
Mr. Aliyu used the opportunity of the dinner to emphasise the the importance of the press in the society.
“The media is the conscience of any society”, he said. “If we don’t have a vibrant media, we cannot be held accountable”.
He called for the support of the media for the agency and the fight against HIV in Nigeria.
“I cannot deliver this job without engaging members of the press. That’s why it’s really important that NACA continues to engage the media”, he stated.
“We need the media to put out the message as our objective is to get as many people as possible that has HIV to be put on treatment”.