Mr Mathew Awoyiola, HIV/AID Coordinator for Irepodun Local Government Area of Kwara, has recommended adequate testing and counselling to achieve zero tolerance to new HIV/AIDS infection.

Awoyiola made the recommendation in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Omu-Aran on Thursday.

He said that the call became necessary in order to prevent new HIV infection through mother-to-child-transmission (MTCT) among pregnant women.

Awoyiola said the call for adequate deployment of resources by government toward HIV/AIDS testing and counselling was basically targeted at curbing new HIV infections as being championed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

He said that the Kwara State Aids Control Agency (KWASACA) in conjunction with the council’s Action Committee on HIV/AIDS had recently organised a workshop on HIV/AIDS in the area.

Awoyiola said the workshop which was targeted at long distance drivers, health attendants, pregnant women and TBL/HIV coordinators, was aimed at improving their knowledge of HIV/AIDS scourge.

He disclosed that an unborn child without any medical intervention has about 40 per cent chance of being infected

“It becomes a double tragedy and a complex situation when an unborn child contacts HIV from a positive mother which deprived the child of a normal healthy living, even before birth.

“Without doubt adequate testing and counselling for pregnant women, especially during antenatal care, will go a long way to reduce cases of mother-to-child-transmission,” Awoyio said.

The coordinator said although the HIV prevalence rate in the country had decreased from 5.8 per cent in 2001 to 4.4 per cent presently, saying the disease is still a long way from being brought under control.

“In fact, we should redouble our efforts; young people still represent the most affected age group.

“One in 20 young people aged 20 to 29 years old are infected by HIV.

“There is also an estimated 1.8 million children orphaned by AIDS in Nigeria, adding that MTCT accounted for three to 10 per cent of HIV infections in the country.

“With the introduction of core MTCT interventions in the developed countries, the rates had fallen to as low as two per cent.

“The entry-point for prevention of MTCT services is through HIV testing of pregnant women attending antenatal care.

“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,” he said.

He listed the benefits of testing and counselling as reinforcement of safe sex practices and empowering of HIV-negative pregnant woman to remain negative and provide opportunity for referrals.

Awoyiola highlighted other challenges facing HIV/AIDS testing and counselling to include additional work-load and stress for healthcare providers as well as limited space for counselling.