HIV & AIDS

The national scale up of antiretroviral therapy in Malawi is based on a public health approach, with principles and practices borrowed from the successful World Health Organization "DOTS" tuberculosis control framework.

Background: Mortality and morbidity among HIV-exposed children are thought to be high in Malawi. We sought to determine mortality and health outcomes of HIV-exposed and unexposed infants within a PMTCT program.

Rationale, aims, and objectives: For a successful patient outcome, a high level of adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) is needed. A 2008 report in Tanzania indicated poor clinic attendance and a high lost to follow-up rate as major threats to optimal ART program effectiveness.

Letter to the editor  Anna Coutsoudis and colleagues worry that international organisations have too hastily endorsed a strategy to provide lifelong triple antiretroviral therapy (ART), irrespective of CD4 count, to pregnant women with HIV in high-burden countries. This strategy for preventing mother-to-child transmission is called Option B+.

Summary Points Expansion of prevention of mother-to-child transmission in resource-limited settings remains a challenge. In many countries, most HIV-exposed infants do not benefit from PMTCT programs, which results in a 30% or more transmission rate.

In 2011, the Malawi Ministry of Health (MOH) implemented an innovative approach (called "Option B+"), in which all HIV-infected pregnant and breastfeeding women are eligible for lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART) regardless of CD4 count. Since that time, several countries have adopted the Option B+ policy. Using data collected through routine program supervision, this report is the first to summarize Malawi's experience implementing Option B+ under the direction of the MOH and supported by the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). In Malawi, the number of pregnant and breastfeeding women started on ART per quarter increased by 748%, from 1,257 in the second quarter of 2011 (before Option B+ implementation) to 10,663 in the third quarter of 2012 (1 year after implementation). Of the 2,949 women who started ART under Option B+ in the third quarter of 2011 and did not transfer care, 2,267 (77%) continue to receive ART at 12 months; this retention rate is similar to the rate for all adults in the national program. Option B+ is an important innovation that could accelerate progress in Malawi and other countries toward the goal of eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV worldwide.

Background: The Ministry of Health in Malawi is implementing a pragmatic and innovative approach for the management of all HIV-infected pregnant women, termed Option B+, which consists of providing life-long antiretroviral treatment, regardless of their CD4 count or clinical stage. Our objective was to determine if Option B+ represents a cost-effective option.

Background: East African countries have in the recent past experienced a tremendous increase in the volume of antiretroviral drugs. Capacity to manage these medicines in the region remains limited.

Low-income countries with high HIV/AIDS burdens in sub-Saharan Africa must deal with severe shortages of qualified human resources for health. This situation has triggered the renewed interest in community health workers, as they may play an important role in scaling-up antiretroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS by taking over a number of tasks from the professional health workers.

Of 48 surveyed hospitals and health centers in Ethiopia, 9 (19%), 9 (19%), and 10 (21%) did not have malaria, TB, or HIV drugs, respectively. Similarly, of 27 health posts, 9 (33%) and 6 (22%) did not have rapid diagnostic tests and antimalarial drugs, respectively. The findings indicated an inadequate availability of essential drugs and commodities in the surveyed facilities as well as weaknesses in human resources and training.

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