PMTCT

This year is not only MSH’s 40th anniversary; it is also 30 years since the first reported cases of HIV. Thirty years ago HIV was considered a new, always-fatal disease. ...Today 6.6 million people—nearly half of those in need—will take life-saving antiretrovirals.

We know how to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. But without intervention nearly 40 percent of mothers with HIV/AIDS in developing countries will transmit the virus to their newborns.

Mother and children, Salima, Malawi, April 2011

Malawi leads the developing world as the first to propose an approach to prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV that addresses the health of the mother. Recently my MSH colleague Erik Schouten and his colleagues in Malawi wrote a commentary in the Lancet about Malawi’s innovative, public health approach to PMTCT. Malawi calls its model “B+” because it complements the World Health Organization’s (WHO) B option, whereby a mother’s CD4 cell count, a measure of the volume of HIV circulating in her blood, determines her eligibility for lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART).

I’d like to call attention to an important set of articles in the recent HIV/AIDS themed issue of The Lancet. Erik Schouten of Malawi Basic Support for Institutionalizing Child Survival (BASICS) has published a commentary (free registration required) about Malawi’s push to be the first country to implement a “B+” approach to reducing mother to child transmission.

Aberu Hailu and her HIV-Negative son.

 

Aberu Hailu is a 31 year old, mother of four living in Hidmo, Ethiopia a rural community 8 kilometers south east of Adigodum town in Tigray. Two years ago, she visited the Adigodum Health Center to be tested for HIV, a disease she had learned about through community health education. She discovered she was HIV-positive and informed her husband that he should be tested, but he refused.

Two months later, Aberu became pregnant and found herself in despair. She thought she would pass the virus on to her baby and she feared the stigma and discrimination she knew often came with a positive HIV status.

Aberu returned to the Adigodum Health Center and the HIV/AIDS Care and Support Program (HCSP), a USAID-funded MSH-led health project, for help. Aberu learned that her baby could be protected from the virus with prevention of mother to child transmission services.

"It's not over yet." World AIDS Day 2010 at MSH in Cambridge, MA.

Today, MSH teams around the world  observed World AIDS Day by participating in national commemorations and offering HIV testing, counseling, and prevention messages.

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