Lack of Technology for early detection of HIV in infants, exposure to re-infections and improper coordination of treatments in Adolescents are now responsible for slow down in HIV/AIDS prevention in West and Central Africa.
These are some of the key findings from a new report just released by UNICEF and UNAIDS in Dakar, Senegal to mark World AIDS day.
This report is being released just as experts at a forum organised by Public Affairs Section of US Consulate with Lagos State University College of Medicine call for improved coordination among three-tiers of government in prompt distribution of HIV drugs to public treatment sites.
The experts also call for government social support for positive parents to aid early disclosure of HIV/AIDS status to children as sure way to improve on Adolescents treatment adherence.
Chief Executive Officer(CEO) Lagos State AIDS Control Agency, Dr. Oluseyi Temowo, blamed scarcity of third-line treatment at treatment sites on “poor coordination between Central Medical Stores, Oshodi and public facilities”.
Paediatric Hematologist at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Professor Edamisan Temiye expressed worry that HIV+ parents still hesitate largely about early disclosure thus fueling non-compliance and treatment failure among young people.
Acting Public Affairs Officer, Public Affairs Section US Consulate General Lagos, Kevin Krapf also decried “insufficient recommended number of HIV testing and counselling centers and Low access of antiretroviral treatment” to People Living with HIV(PLWHIV) as reasons for spread of the disease in Nigeria.
While acknowledging progress in several areas, the UNICEF /UNAIDS report , Step Up the Pace: Towards an AIDS-free generation in West and Central Africa, reveals that West and Central Africa is lagging behind on nearly every measure of HIV prevention, treatment and care programmes for children and adolescents.
It observed that in 2016, an estimated 60,000 children were newly infected with HIV in West and Central Africa.
“It is tragic that so many children and adolescents today are not receiving the treatment they need just because they have not been tested,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s West and Central Africa Regional Director.
“We need to make better use of innovations to increase early diagnosis and improve access to HIV treatment and care for children. For example, the point-of-care technology diagnostic brings testing closer to where children attend health services and self-testing can be a good option for adolescents who may be more comfortable with it”, said Poitier.
The region’s coverage of life-saving antiretroviral therapy among children living with HIV is the lowest in the world because many countries have limited capacity to perform the tests needed for early infant diagnosis.
The report indicates that with the region’s youth population expected significant growth within coming decades, in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria, the numbers of children and adolescents becoming infected with HIV and dying from AIDS is likely to remain high, unless the HIV response – both prevention and treatment – improves dramatically.
The report highlights that the 24 countries that make up the West and Central Africa region are home to 25 per cent of children aged 0–14 years living with HIV worldwide.
“Leaders of the region have endorsed a Catch-Up plan aiming to triple the number of people on treatment in the region – including children – by the end of 2018, the key issue now is to accelerate implementation,” said Luiz Loures, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director.
The report proposes key strategies that will enable countries to accelerate progress in curbing the spread of disease. These include:
1. A differentiated HIV response focusing on unique epidemiological and local contexts in each country and community.
2. The integration of HIV services into key social services including health, education and protection.
3. Community ownership and local governance of the HIV response including working with families, better placed to help reduce stigma, access prevention and treatment.
4. Investment in innovations to remove barriers to scale-up including new diagnostic and biomedical approaches such as point of care diagnostics, HIV self-testing and pre-exposure treatment.