Supporting Nigerian Women through Every Step of Motherhood
The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) supports women across their lifespan, through every step of motherhood — in pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding — and in access to sustainable livelihoods so mothers can help support their families and strengthen their communities.
In fiscal year 2019 alone, the PEPFAR Nigeria program provided HIV testing services to 1.6 million pregnant women and enabled HIV+ women to receive life-saving antiretroviral medication that protects not only their own health but the health of their babies, preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
The Racheal Ignatius Story
Mrs. Rachael Ignatius was 33 years old at the time of her HIV+ diagnosis in 2011. She was 3 months pregnant and had previously delivered 3 babies in hospitals, but had never heard of HIV infection or the need to protect the unborn child from mother-to-child-transmission of HIV. During a routine visit to St. Luke’s Hospital Anua, Uyo LGA in 2011, Mrs. Ignatius was offered voluntary HIV testing. Nurse Margaret, she recalled, gently explained the need for the test and provided counseling, which helped Mrs. Ignatius to deal with the shock of the positive result she was later to receive. Mrs. Ignatius became worried for her pregnancy. Thoughts of danger to her life and family created moments of despair, but the counseling and information provided by the nurse helped her greatly. She was immediately enrolled on the PEPFAR-supported Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) program at the hospital.
The program offers support to mothers throughout pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding, to test and treat HIV+ mothers and prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. It provides information on safe childbirth and infant feeding practices for HIV+ mothers and virology tests for the newborn to monitor its HIV status. In the, highly unlikely, event that baby tests HIV-positive after all the PMTCT interventions, the program immediately starts the baby on HIV treatment, so the baby can live a long, happy, normal life. Following her HIV+ diagnosis, Mrs. Ignatius’ husband, Mr. Ignatius, also received HIV testing and counseling, and was found HIV+. The couple was immediately placed on HIV treatment, thanks to PEPFAR. From this pregnancy, Mrs. Ignatius delivered a set of twin girls in November 2011, born HIV-free! Knowing the benefits of PMTCT, Mrs. Ignatius volunteered as a “Mentor Mother” at the hospital, to encourage other pregnant women to access the freely available HIV testing and PMTCT services. Thanks to PEPFAR, Mrs. Ignatius went on to have one more baby in June 2014, also born HIV-free!
As the world confronts the unique challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, PEPFAR Nigeria remains committed to ensuring that the over 834,000 Nigerians living with HIV who we serve continue to receive the lifesaving antiretroviral therapy (ART) to stay healthy and maintain virologic suppression.
The Asibi Musa Story
Under the PEPFAR Small Grants Program, Asibi Musa received vocational skills training in tailoring as well as essential trade tools to start-off her tailoring business. This support helped Asibi to pull her 6 children (some from scavenging) back into school — some fee paying schools for that matter! This 37-year-old widow of 10 years, credits the business for her being alive today.
“I would not have been alive to tell my story. I had previously dropped out of the [PEPFAR-supported] life-saving treatment, as the situation was then so bad that I did not even have transport money to get to the clinic”.
Five years on, Asibi’s business has grown exponentially. She has moved to the city of Kebbi, where she has numerous customers and many apprentices. Currently, the business is providing free apprenticeships to 6 widows and 10 orphans, due to AIDS, in the community!
The PEPFAR Coordination Office awards a limited number of grants to non-governmental organizations and other civil society entities in support of human rights for key populations (KPs). The grants advance PEPFAR’s overarching goal of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Details on the PEPFAR Small grant program is available on the U.S. Mission Nigeria website.
PEPFAR is the U.S. government’s response to the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and represents the largest commitment by any nation to address a single disease in history. PEPFAR is deeply committed to continuing global progress toward controlling the HIV epidemic — country by country, community by community.