The Kwara State Ministry of Health Coordinator for HIV/AIDS, Salimot Lawal, said on Thursday that more than 1.8 million Nigerian children had been orphaned by HIV and AIDS-related deaths.
Mrs. Lawal said this at a five-day capacity building workshop in Omu-Aran, organised for primary and basic health workers in the 16 local government areas of the state.
The workshop, being attended by no fewer than 100 persons, is aimed at improving the knowledge of the workers on HIV/AIDS testing and counselling.
She said Nigeria has an estimated 4.4 per cent HIV prevalence rate and 3.9 million people living with the virus.
The infection had continued in spite of the concerted efforts aimed at halting and reversing the spread of HIV and AIDS by stakeholders.
"Nigeria remains among the top five countries of the world in terms of HIV and AIDS burden. More than 1.8 million children have been orphaned since the first reported case in the country in 1986," Mrs. Lawal said.
She said the workshop was informed by the desire to prepare the workers for the challenge ahead, particularly in the areas of testing and counseling; to encourage people to know their status.
Mrs. Lawal said that the target was Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission (PMTC) through adequate testing and counselling to achieve zero tolerance to HIV and AIDS infections.
She said that Mother-To-Child Transmission (MTCT) of HIV accounted for three to 10 per cent of HIV infections in Nigeria.
She, however, said that "with introduction of the core MTCT interventions in the developed countries, the rates has fallen to as low as two per cent.
The entry point for PMTCT services is through HIV testing of pregnant women attending antenatal care.
In all settings, HIV testing and counselling should be offered to all pregnant women seeking these services and service providers should also mobilise them to go for testing," she said.
She listed the benefits of testing and counselling as reinforcement of safer sex practices and empowering HIV-negative pregnant woman to remain negative.
Mrs. Lawal also highlighted part of the challenges facing HIV and AIDS testing and counselling to include additional workload and stress for healthcare providers carrying out counselling.
A participant from Oko-Erin Health Centre, Ilorin, Bosede Alabi, said the workshop would afford her the opportunity to allay the fears of people coming for the HIV and AIDS testing.