Not long ago, as a person who is not in the medical field nor have medical training, I came across a child that was born or contracted HIV in the process of birth. This child did not live to her 1st birthday. All the time the child showed signs of being unhealthy until death. The second example I have is of a student at University who is living with HIV from birth,and life is not easy for this boy who is determined to live on.
We need legislation to make sure that all mothers have their HIV status known before they give birth to children,and those living with HIV should have special arrangements to ensure that they are admitted to competent Health units or Government hospitals that can handle their situation to ensure that children who can be saved from contracting HIV are actually helped.After celebrating Mothers' day, the campaign we should endeavour to make is that all women know their HIV status before delivery. 2ndly,women should be able to access free contraceptives to counter pregnancies that are not prepared for and the high population growth.
William Kituuka Kiwanuka
HIV infection from an HIV-positive mother to her child during pregnancy, labour, delivery or breastfeeding is called mother-to-child transmission (MTCT). An estimated 370 000 children (<15 years)were newly infected with HIV in 2009, the vast majority of them through MTCT. MTCT is almost entirely preventable where services are available, however, the coverage levels are remarkably low in most resource-limited countries. Global access to interventions to prevent HIV infections in infants was a key concern at the UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS in 2001, where the Member States committed to the goal of reducing the proportion of infants infected with HIV by 50% by the year 2010.
WHO works with partners to define and strengthen the normative guidance, policies and implementation of prevention, care and treatment of women and infants infected with HIV/AIDS.
Effective prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) requires a three-fold strategy.3 4
* Preventing HIV infection among prospective parents - making HIV testing and other prevention interventions available in services related to sexual health such as antenatal and postpartum care.
* Avoiding unwanted pregnancies among HIV positive women - providing appropriate counseling and support to women living with HIV to enable them to make informed decisions about their reproductive lives.
* Preventing the transmission of HIV from HIV positive mothers to their infants during pregnancy, labour, delivery and breastfeeding.
* Integration of HIV care, treatment and support for women found to be positive and their families.
The last of these can be achieved by the use of antiretroviral drugs, safer infant feeding practices and other interventions.
HOW CAN MOTHER-TO-CHILD TRANSMISSION OF HIV INFECTION BE PREVENTED?
Mother-to-child transmission is the most common source of HIV infection among children below fifteen years of age. About one million children are estimated to be living with HIV infection all over the world. Majority of these children are from the developing countries, especially Africa. Since HIV/AIDS is spreading rapidly in India, the number of pregnant women with HIV infection is also increasing. As a result, the number of children who get HIV infection through their mothers is also increasing.Until recently, two main strategies were adopted to prevent mother-to-child-162transmission of HIV infection. These included (a) to protect women in the childbearing age from becoming infected and (b) to promote family planning services in order to prevent unwanted births. Although these two strategies continue to remain the most important strategies for preventing mother-to-child transmission, a third option is being explored for reducing this mode of transmission. This is to give medicines that slow down the multiplication of HIV to pregnant women and sometimes to the infant too. In developed countries, breast-feeding is normally not recommended for babies born to mothers with HIV infection. However, the risk of ill health and death for a baby in countries such as India due to poor nutrition and diseases such as diarrhoea is much greater than the risk of getting HIV infection through breast-feeding. This is why all women in India, irrespective of whether they have HIV infection or not, are advised to breast-feed their babies.One study in Thailand has indicated that taking a short-term treatment of zidovudine greatly reduces the risk of mother-to-child transmission. The risk is reduced to below ten per cent if breastfeeding is strictly avoided. However, in countries such as India where breastfeeding is important for prevention of infections such as diarrhoea for the infants, breast-feeding is recommended for all women, even if they have HIV infection. Some studies are underway to test whether a group of medicines are more effective than zidovudine. Initial reports of a study using zidovudine and lamivudine have shown promising results. More studies are underway to determine alternative medicines or groups of medicine that may further reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission.Some factors may increase the risk of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV Infection. The risk of transmission is estimated to be two times higher in a mother who has been recently infected with HIV as compared with a woman who has had earlier infection. This may be because of higher number of HIV in the blood after a recent infection. Vitamin A deficiency is also associated with increased risk of mother-to-child transmission. It is also suspected that fissures in the nipples of the mothers and oral thrush or wounds in the mouth of the babies increase the risk of mother-to-child transmission. This is because they allow the virus to enter the blood more easily.
NEW MEDIA CAMPAIGN ADDRESSES MOTHER TO CHILD TRANSMISSION OF HIV AND AIDS IN AFRICA
A woman holds up her firstborn baby in Kamuli, Uganda. Plan International, with the support of AusAID, is working to protect the legal rights of people affected by HIV and AIDS. Photo: Kate Holt/Africa Practice
Photo of conference participants sitting at a table
Broadcast media partnership members discuss ways of increasing awareness of the mother-to-child transmission of HIV and AIDS. Photo: Phoebe Anderson/AusAID
by Phoebe Anderson, AusAID South Africa
Radio stations are working together across Africa to educate communities about how, without the right treatment, a mother can transmit HIV and AIDS to her children.
When it comes to media in Africa, radio is still king.
Other forms of media such as television and mobile phone technology continue to evolve dramatically, but there's little disagreement that radio remains the dominant mass media on the continent.
This raises an important question: How can radio and other electronic media platforms potentially mobilise behaviour change to decrease the transmission of the deadly AIDS virus between mothers and their children?
Finding answers to complex challenges is something the African Broadcast Media Partnership is good at. Launched in 2006, this influential partnership is an alliance of 64 state and private broadcast companies drawn from 38 African countries.
Partnership to prevent the transmission of HIV
During the middle of 2010, the partnership launched an innovative 12–month mass media campaign focused on preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
HIV infection from an HIV-positive mother to her child during pregnancy, labour, delivery or breastfeeding is called mother-to-child transmission. The UN estimates 370 000 children are born with HIV each year.
In November 2010, AusAID helped to fund the partnership's first workshop on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
The workshop involved bringing African producers together in Johannesburg. They discussed innovative ways of using content and their respective outlets to encourage mothers to seek antiretroviral treatment, and call for universal access to HIV services.
Media campaign under way
In a campaign called 'Make it possible: It begins with you', the push in 2011 is to achieve universal access to transmission-prevention services with the aim of ending paediatric AIDS by 2015.
'The risks of HIV transmission from mother to child can be virtually eliminated if a mother follows the correct treatment protocols, but the challenge is not just a medical one,' said Shantha Bloemen, communications chief for UNICEF's Africa Service Unit.
'It's about getting medicines to pregnant women who are HIV positive and educating them and their families to understand the importance of treatment in preventing children from being infected.'
Key to this lifesaving health drive is airtime.
Radio waves spread the message
Members of the partnership have already committed five per cent of their airtime to spread information about the prevention of mother-to-child transmission more widely.
This amounts to an hour each day in each country spread across all genres including, but not limited to, newscasts, dramas, documentaries and public service announcements.
The next step involves designing new and appropriate content to fill the airtime.
This is what the workshop, organised by the Kaiser Family Foundation, UNICEF and UNAIDS, helped producers to understand.
The fresh content will increase awareness of mother-to-child transmission and how it can be prevented; encourage more pregnant women to seek HIV testing and treatment; and reduce the stigma surrounding HIV.
HIV transmission can be prevented
Mother-to-child transmission is almost entirely preventable where services are available.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, the World Health Organization estimates 1.24 million women living with HIV are in need of antiretrovirals to prevent mother-to-child transmission. This is in contrast to the 672,800 women who actually receive antiretrovirals.
'We hope to see producers develop more innovative and entertaining programming for African television and radio stations, obviously with the correct and substantive information,' said Michael Sinclair, Vice President of the Kaiser Family Foundation.
'We're not trying to pretend that the media has to be an expert on every dimension of the prevention of mother-to child transmission, which is technically complex, but their role is to be a catalyst to increase access to information and to direct people to clinical services.'
Adamson Momoh, a producer with Radio Nigeria, said: 'I was able to discuss better quality programs at the workshop and to meet media colleagues from all over Africa.
'The challenge all of us face is the same. We have to pass this information to our audiences and to keep passing it on… everyday and in every way we can.'