News / Africa

    Nigeria Aims for Generation of HIV-Free Babies

    Mabel Ighedosa, 30, sits with her newborn triplets Isaac, Treasure and Samuel in a ward of the Lagos Island Maternity Hospital in Lagos, Nigeria, October 31, 2011.
    Mabel Ighedosa, 30, sits with her newborn triplets Isaac, Treasure and Samuel in a ward of the Lagos Island Maternity Hospital in Lagos, Nigeria, October 31, 2011.
    Heather Murdock
    Health authorities say 70,000 children are born HIV-positive in Nigeria every year, and one-fourth of them don't live past their first birthday.  While some officials say they want to make Nigeria one of Africa's first nations to give birth to a generation of HIV-free babies, activists say poverty, stigma and a lack of government support make that goal lofty, if not impossible.

    Assumta Reginald was pregnant with her third child when she found out that she is HIV-positive.  Back then, she says, programs to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV and anti-retroviral drugs were not widely available. There was little for her to do but substitute formula for breast milk, wait and pray.

    "All of us were living in fear," Reginald recalled.  "So that child was not breast-fed just to avoid the child getting infected.  The child is not HIV-positive but the child did not take breast milk."
     
    Global AIDS Figures

    • People Living with HIV
      Adults - 30.1 million
      Children - 3.4 million
    • People newly infected with HIV in 2010 - 2.7 million
    • AIDS deaths in 2010 - 1.8 million

    Source: WHO
    Reginald says today things are different.  She has regular care and is looking forward to breastfeeding another healthy baby when it's born in a few months.  But she says many women who are HIV-positive in Nigeria don't take advantage of available pre-natal care.

    "Some of them are tested HIV-positive and they are crying.  'My life is finished so my baby is going to be HIV-positive.  What am I going to do?'  That woman will walk away from the clinic and try to patronize traditional birth attendants.  And that woman gets her child infected with HIV," Reginald added.

    Edward Ogenyi is the national coordinator for the Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.  He says 2.9 million people are known to be living with HIV in Nigeria, but more than 80 percent of the population does not know their HIV status.  And for many who do know, drugs are not available.  More than half of the people known to be in need of anti-retroviral drugs in Nigeria don't get them because there are not enough.  

    "The culture of voluntary counseling and testing is not there.  It is something that we are still struggling with," said Ogenyi.  "It is only when we can take it up very seriously that we can be sure that we can prevent new HIV infections in this country."

    Ogenyi says some women actually avoid public hospitals because of mandatory HIV screening.  Dr. Adamu Onu, a family practitioner in Abuja, says stigma attached to being HIV-positive in Nigeria can put women in impossible situations.  If a woman does not breastfeed her child, she may make public her HIV status and potentially be ostracized.  Worse than that, he says, many women have no choice.

    "People expect her to breastfeed and you've told her, 'Well you can't breastfeed your child.' Questions are going to arise," explained Onu.  "And then of course she's from a poor background.  She cannot afford a breast milk substitute.  So what do you do?"

    HIV positive women have a 25 percent chance of passing the virus onto their offspring without treatment. Dr. Onu says nearly all the patients who get preventative care have HIV-negative babies.  But he says a generation of HIV-free babies is not a realistic goal, because so many rural Nigerians don't have access to health care.
     
    Countries with Largest Number of People Living with HIV Infections


    • South Africa - 5,600,000
    • Nigeria - 3,300,000
    • India - 2,400,000
    • Kenya - 1,500,000
    • Mozambique - 1,400,000
    • Tanzania - 1,400,000
    • Zimbabwe - 1,200,000
    • Uganda - 1,200,000
    • United States - 1,200,000
    • Russia - 980,000

    Source: CIA World Factbook, 2009 estimates
    However, Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, Nigeria's state minister of health, says with expanding health care operations, public education and a proposed new legislation that criminalizes discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients, Nigeria has the capacity to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

    "It's going be tough, but we can do it," said Pate.  "It's not like going to the moon.  The interventions are known.  We have our resources and we also know our partners have significant resources."
     
    As Reginald prepares to have her fourth HIV-negative child, she says Nigerian HIV/AIDS care relies largely on fickle foreign donors. She calls on the Nigerian government to "take ownership" of the issue to ensure sustainable care.

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora