The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, says no fewer than 270,000 estimated children aged 0 to 14 years were living with HIV in Nigeria in 2016.

The figure represented the lion share of half of the 540,000 total infected children in West and Central Africa over the same year.

Nigeria also recorded 37,000 new HIV infections among children out of the total of 60,000 new infections in West and Central Africa over the same period, representing 62 per cent of the new infections.

The UN children’s agency warned that the West and Central Africa were lagging too far behind the rest of the world in access to HIV treatment and care.

In a report, the UNICEF Director of West and Central Africa, Ms Marie-Pierre Poirier called for improvement of early diagnosis and access to HIV treatment and care for children.

She said four in five children living with HIV in West and Central Africa were still not receiving life-saving antiretroviral therapy.

According to UNICEF, West and Central Africa has the lowest paediatric antiretroviral treatment coverage in the world.

The region has only 21 per cent of the 540,000 children, aged 0 to 14 years, living with HIV receiving antiretroviral treatment in 2016 – compared to 43 per cent globally.

To overcome these hurdles, Ms Marie-Pierre Poirier called for key strategies to enable countries accelerate efforts to curb the spread of the disease.

She proposed a differentiated HIV response focusing on unique epidemiological and local contexts in each country and community.

The Director also proposed the integration of HIV services into key social services including health, education and protection.