Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria on Tuesday in Abuja put the number of pregnant Nigerians living with the virus at 210,000.
The group, which also protested against its exclusion from HIV related decision-making process, noted that to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in the country, the Federal Government should bring women living with the disease to the front burner.
National Coordinator of ASWHAN, Ms. Assumption Reginald, stated this at a stakeholders’ meeting entitled ‘HIV and Women’s rights in Nigeria: gaining momentum’. The forum was in commemoration of this year’s international women’s day.
According to her, research has shown that HIV has more devastating effect on women than men, saying the former constitute approximately 58 per cent (1.72 million) of persons living with HIV in the country.
She said, “HIV prevalence among young women aged (15-24 years) is estimated to be three times higher than among men of the same age. Each year, 55 per cent of AIDS related deaths occur among women and girls. Nigeria has the highest number of pregnant women living with HIV and the number of HIV+ children, after South Africa and Mozambique; and the highest estimated number of pregnant women living with HIV in need of ARVs to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV.
“According to UNAIDS (2008), 15 per cent of the total of low-and middle-range countries requiring ARVs for pregnant women living with HIV are from Nigeria. Therefore 210,000 pregnant women living with HIV in Nigeria are in need of ARVs.”
Calling for the involvement of ASWHAN members in the decision-making process, Reginald said unlike Uganda, Kenya and other African countries where the networks of HIV-positive women access the global fund for HIV, the association in Nigeria “has never benefited from the fund as an implementer of the grant”.
ASWHAN also kicked against the monopoly of the access to the fund by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, saying the agency should “evolve a best-practice/success based strategy in the implementation of Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme.”