In Nigeria, Pact and Chevron are preventing mother-to-child HIV transmissions

November 11, 2015
Unoma visits a health clinic in Bayelsa state.

No woman wants to pass HIV to her unborn child. Unoma, a farmworker in Nigeria's Bayelsa state who had little understanding of the disease, is no different.

That’s why, after trained health workers from Pact partner HEALIN visited her at her home, Unoma followed up on their advice to visit a health clinic, where she could be tested for HIV and, if positive, get antiretroviral medicine and antenatal education to drastically reduce the odds of transmitting the virus to her child.

Unoma is one of thousands of pregnant women in Nigeria who for the first time are learning that they can and should be tested for HIV for the sake of their babies.

Prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Baylesa, where the virus is especially prevalent, is the goal of PROMOT, a partnership funded by Chevron and managed by Pact. Chevron carries out oil and gas operations in the Nigerian Delta state, while Pact works in Bayelsa and elsewhere in the country to combat corruption, promote democracy and improve health.

PROMOT aims to increase the number of women who are tested for HIV during their pregnancy to 50 percent, and to increase the percentage of HIV-exposed infants who are tested to 80 percent. More important, Pact is building the capacity of community organizations like HEALIN to carry on transmission prevention efforts beyond the life of PROMOT.

In its first year, the project helped test 7,382 pregnant women, a more than 20 percent increase over the previous year. 

Unoma is 25 and has two sons. She recieved no prenatal care during her first two pregnancies and delivered the boys on a farm at the hands of other farmworkers.

This pregnancy is different. Although she is unsure how many months she has been carrying her baby, she has the peace of mind that he or she is likely to be born free of HIV, since she was tested at the clinic and is following appropriate antenatal practices she learned from community health workers at HEALIN.

One of four local partners in Bayelsa receiving training and other assistance from Pact, HEALIN is conducting community meetings and home visits in Tombia village, where Unoma lives, as well as five other communities.

Besides increasing HIV testing and improving antenatal care, HEALIN's work is paying off in better pediatric health in general.

“Women who were formerly not accessing antenatal care are now doing so on a regular basis,” said Gift Godwin, HEALIN’s project manager. “They are even bringing their older babies for post-natal care, especially routine immunizations.”

Godwin added: “No woman wants her baby to be HIV infected, even if she is HIV positive. By the time we comb through these communities, all the pregnant women will be attending antenatal care regularly and getting tested for HIV.”

Just like Unoma.