In what seems like an effort to curb the rising rate of new HIV infections in the country,the Ministry of Health has unveiled a plan to scale up provision of ARVs to HIV positive expectant mothers.
Under what has been dubbed as Option B+, the government will put every HIV+ pregnant woman on ARV treatment the moment she's diagnosed with the disease and will continue with the treatment for the rest of their lives.
Currently, whenever a woman goes for ante-natal care in any government or major hospital they are tested for HIV and when found to have the virus, they are put on ARVs.
Administration of ARVs to pregnant mothers through what is called Prevention of Mother to Child Treatment (PMTCT) on average saves the lives of some 61, 600 babies every year from getting infected by their mothers.
However Dr. Christina Ondoa, the Minister of Health, says that when the Positive mothers stop taking ARVs after birth, some of their babies (16,000) contract the disease.
Under the new arrangement however, provision of ARVs throughout the mother's lifetime, will keep the virus at bay and hence protect the life of the mother as well as the child, Ondoa said.
The strategy is one of the major initiatives by the government to reverse the rising trend of new HIV infections in the country. Whereas Uganda was known globally for its successes in fighting against HIV/AIDS, 2011 AIDS survey indicated that the rate of new infections had risen from 6.4% to 7.2%.
This was attributed to increased complacency especially among married couples as well as the use of ARVs that has created false hope among people that HIV is no longer a death sentence.
The latest survey indicates that women and children are disproportionately affected by the disease. The rate of infection among women of child-bearing age stands at 8.3% compared to 6.1% of men.
However, while about 1.3 million people are living with HIV, the survey also revealed that an estimated 145,000 new infections are occurring each year and of these, mother to child transmission accounts for 11% (16,000).
Although the Ministry of Health in the past has been implementing prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) using the Option A+, it was discovered that a big percentage of HIV transmission from mothers to babies continued to persist. Ondoa however disclosed that Option B+ is the latest global plan that is going to eliminate mother to child HIV transmission.
Strategy to eliminate mother to child transmission
Ondoa said of the new strategy thus: "This means that a woman who tests positive during pregnancy will be started on ARVs right away and she will continue for the rest of her life unlike with the Option A+ which was introduced to a woman only during her pregnancy."
The Director General of Health Services Dr. Jane Ruth Achen added that: "This will not only improve the chances of the mother's life but it will also enable her to have a HIV free baby," she said.
On the other hand, Ondoa noted that the government hopes to cut Mother to Child Transmission of the HIV virus to 90% by 2015. This means that out of the estimated 26,400 expected infections amongst exposed babies, only about 2,000 babies will still be exposed to the virus.
With fewer mothers and babies dying, the plan is expected to lead to a reduction in orphan hood as well as reducing transmission of the virus to an HIV negative spouse in a discordant relationship.
She added that the procedure will further harmonize and simplify PMTC and ART programs, improving on adherence and treatment outcomes and due to its efficiency, it will motivate health workers after seeing their patients improve and achieve better health with simplified treatment regimens.
And when all is implemented, the plan will boost the government's objective of achieving the millennium development goals; MDG 3, 4, 5 AND 6 by 2015 that relate to the lives of new borns, mothers and general welfare of women.
The minister revealed that the increased provision of ARVs to pregnant mothers comes courtesy of financial support from the governments of the United States as well as that of Sweden.
The American government contributed some US$25m while that of Sweden contributed US$6m towards the plan.
The American government pledged to provide US$ 15m each year for the next five years.
By Diana Bauzablog comments powered by Disqus
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