Uganda registers drop in Mother-Child HIV transmission cases

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The Director General of Uganda AIDS Commission, Dr. Christine Ondoa

 

Every mother would love to give birth to a child free of any disease, but the risk of transmitting HIV to unborn babies sends shocks to many women living with the virus, forcing many of them to drop the idea of bearing children after testing positive.

For such women, motherhood comes with a lot of challenges: they require social, emotional and medical support to steer the process that includes counseling and access to the antiretroviral drugs needed to prevent HIV infection from being passed on to their babies during pregnancy, delivery, and breastfeeding.

Medical records show that mother to child transmission contributes up to 90 percent of the infections among children.

But with renewed global commitment to end the vertical transmission of HIV, also referred to as the Virtual Elimination of Mother‐to‐Child Transmission of HIV (EMTCT), the hope for such mothers has been revived. Uganda, like a number of other countries, is recording advances in treatment, coverage, and more effective treatments for persons living with HIV.

The Director General of Uganda AIDS Commission Dr. Christine Ondoa told this website that fewer babies are now being born with HIV. She said that that in 2013, over 15,000 babies were born infected with HIV compared to 28,000 babies in 2008.

By the end of 2014, the number had reduced to 8,000, Dr Ondoa added. “In that category the reduction has been almost 70% because in 2011 there were about 28000 new born babies HIV from infected mothers but by the end of last year that number had come down by almost 8000. So for us that is a very very big success that calls for intensifying efforts in the elimination of mother to child transmission,” she said.

Testing for HIV is a key step in eliminating mother to child transmission of HIV. HIV infections in children could be reduced by 28% through increasing HIV testing capacity at health facilities and ensuring 100% testing among women seeking antenatal care. Dr Ondoa said providing antiretroviral treatment to all women who received ARV prophylaxis would give an 18% reduction of mother to child transmission.

This approach has produced results for at least four districts and one additional health center in Uganda where no case of mother to child transmission was registered over the last two years. The districts include Ngora, Maracha, Lamwo and Nebbi. Equally successful was Reach-Out Mbuya Parish Initiative, a Community Faith-Based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) operating in the districts of Kampala and Luweero.

Dr. Betty Nsangi Kintu, the Executive Director Reach-Out Mbuya Parish HIV/AIDS Initiative said the success was a result of a program which linked mothers in a network that encouraged them to live positively and fight on.

Ms Josephine Ssekintule, the Prevention of Mother to Child (PMTCT) intervention focal person at Mbuya said the effort includes continuous counseling and follow-up of the HIV positive expectant mothers.

Reach-Out Mbuya Parish serves 3,450 clients, 2,006 of whom are on anti-retroviral therapy. The facility provides counseling, treatment, HIV testing and psychological support to children affected by HIV/AIDS