IFESH Launches Program to Prevent Mother-to-Child HIV/AIDS Transmission in Nigeria

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- IFESH, The International Foundation for Education and Self-Help, announced a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta to help prevent the transmission of mother-to-child HIV/AIDS in Rivers State, Nigeria, Africa.

Sub-Saharan Africa now has nearly 26.6 million people living with HIV/AIDS; another 2.3 million Africans died from AIDS last year alone, said Laurin Banner, country director, IFESH-Nigeria.  While many people still mistakenly think of AIDS as a gay disease, the reality is that more than 50 percent of those already infected in Africa are women -- usually married women -- and up to 75 percent of all newly-infected persons are female.  As a result, 90 percent of children under age 15 who have HIV acquired it from their mothers.  IFESH is working tirelessly to raise HIV awareness and to reduce the mother to child transmission rate.

Home to 10 percent of the worlds population, sub-Saharan Africa now has 70 percent of the worlds HIV/AIDS cases.  The United Nations estimates that more than 3 million African children have already died from AIDS and that another 3 million are currently living with -- and dying from -- HIV/AIDS.  Every single day, 5,500 men, women and children in Africa die from AIDS and another ten thousand are infected.  More than 1.3 million African children have already been orphaned by the pandemic.  Without massive intervention and worldwide humanitarian support, experts estimate that 68 million Africans, which equates to nearly 25 percent of the current U.S. population, will die from this disease during the next decade.  Thats more than the total number of people worldwide who died as a result of all known wars during the entire 20th century.

The $600,000, three-year CDC grant will provide training for 50 Nigerian healthcare workers on mother to child transmission prevention.  In addition, at least 20,000 pregnant women will receive counseling about both HIV and mother-to-child transmission prevention each year, and at least 1,000 pregnant HIV/AIDS-infected women per year will receive medical treatment that will significantly reduce the risk of HIV transmission to their newborns.  This grant will make available medicine to be administered to mothers at or before the onset of labor and to their infants shortly after birth.  Since the virus can be transmitted from mother to child via breast milk, baby formula will also be provided for infected mothers who choose not to breast feed to avoid the risk of infecting their newborn children with the HIV/AIDS virus.

The work of the IFESH Nigeria country office, which is located in Port Harcourt City, Nigeria, is focused primarily on the impoverished Niger Delta and Rivers State, where the HIV infection rate is among the highest in Nigeria.  The IFESH program incorporates radio and billboard advertising designed to both educate and prompt women to accept HIV testing, with a program that thoroughly trains local healthcare workers in HIV and mother to child transmission prevention counseling.  The program also includes active medical protocol and follow-up that should significantly reduce the number of babies who acquire HIV from their mothers during or shortly after birth.

Established in 1981, IFESH continues to uphold the pioneering self-help philosophy and transcendent message of hope of its founder, the late Reverend Dr. Leon H. Sullivan.  Reverend Sullivans work, which earned him Americas highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, is based on the concept that, for true sustainable development to occur, principles of self-reliance must be adhered to and integrated into community projects.  The organization provides highly respected, grassroots education, healthcare, poverty reduction, conflict mitigation and community development assistance to the disadvantaged populations of sub-Saharan Africa.  Headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz., USA, IFESH has offices in Benin, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Ghana, Guinea, Ethiopia, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria and South Africa.