From Scholastica Hir, Makurdi
As a way of ensuring a generation of HIV free children, a Non Governmental Organization (NGO), AIDS Healthcare Foundation, (AHF), has trained women living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) as well as traditional birth attendants on prevention of mother-to-child transmission of the virus.
AHF Country Director, Dr Echey Ijezie, who spoke during the one-day training workshop for participants across the six area councils of the FCT, said the training will be replicated across all  states of the federation to encourage women overcome stigmas and access treatment free of charge.
He explained that the initiative which is under the Mentor Mother programme to Prevent Mother-to-Child Transmissions, (PMTCT) of HIV is aimed at training mentor mothers and Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA) in prevent transmission of HIV to infants.
“We want to generate a good network of mentor mothers who benefitted from the prevention, treatment and care services given to HIV positive pregnant women.
“We are doing this across states of the federation by identifying mentor mothers to work in communities, and as they work in communities, they encourage other mothers to access free treatment.
“Free treatment is given to all women living with the virus to protect their unborn children. The essence is to have a generation of children that are HIV-free,” Ijezie said.
He stated that AHF has also trained some mentor mothers in Anambra, Nasarawa, Benue, Kogi, Cross River and the FCT to support and counsel HIV positive women in overcoming stigmatisation and to access healthcare.
“If people share their experiences and are willing to talk about their status openly, it serves as an encouragement to other members of the community, that there is nothing to be afraid of and living positively is not a death sentence.
“We want our babies to be born HIV negative. So, we’re training women and empowering them to ensure they working in communities where they live.”
Speaking, the Advocacy and Marketing Manager of AHF Nigeria, Mr Steve Aborisade, noted the gaps in the HIV delivery system and harped on the need for treatment to prevent having children with HIV in the country.
He said “it is important that we bring women from the community where they live themselves to speak to other women and get them to come for antenatal care.
“Once a woman attends antenatal clinic, it is compulsory for her to be tested for HIV and if found positive, she gets on to the treatment programme immediately, and that guarantees that the child will be born HIV-free.”
The states Nursing Coordinator, AHF Nigeria, Mrs Christy Awunor, identified the role of mentor mothers as that of supporting during antenatal care, HIV testing, care and treatment services for newly diagnosed HIV positive pregnant women.
She clarified that mentor mothers are HIV positive mothers who were once pregnant and have HIV-free babies.
“They encourage other positive pregnant women in communities to ensure reduction or total elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV.”
In a release to newsmen on Friday, one of the newly inaugurated mentor mothers, Mrs Grace Ungbian, revealed that she adhered to the medical directives and treatment, which prevented her from transmitting the virus to her children.
She said “my last child is about 17 years old now but because I passed through PMTCT, she is negative.”
She encouraged individuals especially mothers living with HIV to overcome stigmatisation and ensure they access healthcare to improve their chances of survival and prevention of transmission to their children.