Namibia Becomes First African Country to End Mother-to-Child HIV, Hepatitis B Transmission – WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said Namibia, a Southern African country, is the first high-burden nation globally to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of both HIV and Hepatitis B.

The global health body disclosed this in a statement on Monday.

WHO said the country has saved 28,000 children from vertical transmission of HIV since 2010.

The country achieved this by making HIV testing and treatment easily accessible to every pregnant woman. This initiative, WHO said, led to a 70 per cent reduction in child-to-mother transmission in the last 20 years.

WHO said in 2022, only 4 per cent of babies born to mothers living with HIV acquired the virus.

Similarly, about 80 per cent of infants received a timely birth dose of the Hepatitis B vaccine.

Namibia, WHO noted further, has integrated all its Primary Health Care Centres (PHC) with adequate antenatal, child, and reproductive health services.

The global agency said; “A stable domestic finance to national health programmes, offering widely accessible, quality and free of charge clinical services and support.”

Speaking on the development, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said Namibia’s progress proves how dedicated political leadership and effective implementation of public health priorities can save lives.

“With concerted efforts, we can accelerate progress to reach the goals of ending mother-to-child transmission of HIV, Hepatitis B, and syphilis, the triple elimination,” she said.

The East and Southern Africa bear more than half the world’s HIV burden and Africa itself accounts for two-thirds of new hepatitis B infections globally.

Namibia is home to more than 200,000 people living with HIV, with new infections disproportionately affecting females.

The UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Etleva Kadilli, also said Namibia achieved the milestone by taking a truly integrated approach to the HIV response from early on.

“The country has not addressed HIV in isolation as a single disease, but as part of a broader health and development agenda, encompassing maternal and child health for all. Namibia has reached mothers and their children, even in the most rural areas,” she noted.

To reward Namibia for its effort, the WHO awarded the country a “silver tier” status for reducing Hepatitis B and a “bronze tier” for its progress in combating HIV, based on specified criteria.

However, Nigeria is still struggling to control mother-to-child transmission of HIV and Hepatitis B.

The country has the slowest decline in mother-to-child rates in sub-Saharan Africa.

Nigeria is one of the top 5 countries with the highest burden of Hepatitis.

There are approximately 15.7 million cases of Hepatitis in the country, with Hepatitis B accounting for 14.4 million cases and C with 1.3 million.

This is 5 per cent of the global disease burden, which affects about 400 million people.

Nigeria also ranks fourth in the world with regard to HIV burden. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, 1.8 million people in Nigeria are living with HIV.