Health & HIV/AIDS
Africare Technical Capacity:
Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV
Mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV remains a major public health problem worldwide, and is by far the most common route of HIV transmission for newborns and infants, especially in Africa, home to approximately 95% percent of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA). As many as 25– 45% of HIV-positive pregnant women pass the virus to their newborns during pregnancy or childbirth, or through breastfeeding. Last year alone, 630,000 children were newly infected with HIV—90% of them living in Sub-Saharan Africa.
PMTCT is considered part of all Africare’s comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention, care and support programs. Africare is working with key stakeholders and governments in several Sub-Saharan African countries to reduce the spread of HIV by promoting PMTCT practices—such as counseling and HIV testing, use of antiretroviral drugs, safe childbirth practices, and counseling on safe infant and young child feeding.
In South Africa, Africare has taken the lead to assist the Department of Health in training service providers and clinical trainers in PMTCT in three sub districts in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. With funds provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Africare worked with the University of Kwazulu Natal to develop a training curriculum on PMTCT. This comprehensive, evidence-based course is helping to build human capacity for PMTCT programs. To date, over 155 health care providers have been and are now offering integrated PMTCT/counseling and testing services in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.
Africare is working with the Eastern Cape Department of Health to strengthen PMTCT services in 75 health facilities, expanding to additional facilities in the coming years. Africare supports the provision of HIV counseling and testing to pregnant women attending antenatal clinics in 75 facilities in the Eastern Cape. Over 2000 mothers have been counseled and tested – those who tested positive are being provided with antiretroviral drugs to reduce maternal viral load during pregnancy and delivery. All infected pregnant women have been provided with breastfeeding counseling aimed at reducing infant exposure to HIV. Through Africare’s support, at least 200 babies have been provided with pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis.
Africare has also played an important role in strengthening linkages between PMTCT programs and HIV/AIDS care and treatment programs, thus improving access of
HIV-positive women and their families to the continuum of HIV/AIDS clinical care, including antiretroviral therapy. In December 2009, Africare established an electronic tracking system (PedTrack) to reduce loss to follow up of mothers and babies after delivery. This system is being piloted in 5 health facilities in the Eastern Cape Province. Preliminary results received in March 2010, show a 5% reduction in loss to follow up of pregnant mothers following delivery, and a 3% increase in PCR testing for babies.