PMTCT (Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission)

A cross-sectional qualitative study was conducted to explore early experiences surrounding "Option B+" for patients and health care workers in Malawi. As "Option B+" continues to be rolled out, novel interventions to support and retain women in care must be implemented. These include providing space, time, and support to accept a diagnosis before starting ART, engaging partners and families, and addressing the need for peer support and confidentiality.

This article presents Malawi’s experience with designing and implementing Option B+ and provides complementary narratives from Cameroon and Tanzania. Operationalizing Option B+ required several critical considerations, including the complete integration of ART and PMTCT programs, systematic reduction of barriers to facilitate doubling the number of ART sites in less than a year, building consensus with stakeholders, and securing additional resources. During the planning and implementation process, several lessons were learned which are considerations for countries transitioning to “treat-all”: Comprehensive change requires effective government leadership and coordination; national clinical guidelines must accommodate health system limitations; ART services and commodities should be decentralized within facilities; the general public should be well informed about major changes in the national HIV program; and patients should be educated on clinic processes to improve program monitoring.

The Government of Cameroon and its partners have made major investments in the last decade in prevention, treatment, and care of HIV-infected patients. However, unmet need for antiretroviral therapy (ART) among HIV-positive pregnant women remains high at 66%. Critical to satisfying this need is ensuring adequate availability of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) commodities for rollout of new Option B+ guidelines. This study examines options for improving the supply and availability of these commodities. Supply chain operational data was collected in July 2014 from central (CENAME) and 4 regional warehouses (CAPRs); 10 district stores; and 30 service delivery points (SDPs), including ART and PMTCT sites. The study also included seven central private-sector logistics firms. In addition, SC cost data was obtained from CENAME and CAPRs financial statements. Data collected served for analysis of three options to improve effectiveness of delivering PMTCT commodities. Asset utilization within the cost recovery system ranged between 73% and 89% while inventory turnover was at 1.5. Therefore, a reliable supply of medicines to SDPs is ensured. However, for PMTCT and ART commodities, distribution to the SDPs was unreliable (in 2013, 40% of prescriptions remained unfilled). Meanwhile, results of the options analysis indicated that the model of CAPRs delivering PMTCT commodities to SDPs was the most desirable. Although the distance traveled was higher, the need for network storage space was minimal. Moreover, its total cost and human resource requirements were more favorable. As a result of disseminating the findings, the Ministry of Health adopted Option 2.

In July 2011, Malawi introduced an ambitious public health program known as “Option B+,” which provides all HIV- infected pregnant and breastfeeding women with lifelong combination antiretroviral therapy, regardless of clinical stage or CD4 count. Option B+ is expected to have benefits for HIV-infected women, their HIV-exposed infants, and their HIV-uninfected male sex partners. However, these benefits hinge on early uptake of prevention of mother-to-child transmission, good adherence, and long-term retention in care. The Prevention of mother-to-child transmission Uptake and REtention (PURE) study is a 3-arm cluster randomized controlled trial to evaluate whether clinic- or community-based peer support will improve care-seeking and retention in care by HIV- infected pregnant and breastfeeding women, their HIV-exposed infants, and their male sex partners, and ultimately improve health outcomes in all 3 populations. We describe the PURE Malawi Consortium, the initial work conducted to inform the trial and interventions, the trial design, and the analysis plan. We then discuss concerns and expected contributions to Malawi and the region.

Each year over a million infants are born to HIV-infected mothers. With scale up of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) interventions, only 210 000 of the 1.3 million infants born to mothers with HIV/AIDS in 2012 became infected. Current programmatic efforts directed at infants born to HIV-infected mothers are primarily focused on decreasing their risk of infection, but an emphasis on maternal interventions has meant follow-up of exposed infants has been poor. Programs are struggling to retain this population in care until the end of exposure, typically at the cessation of breastfeeding, between 12 and 24 months of age. But HIV exposure is a life-long condition that continues to impact the health and well being of a child long after exposure has ended. A better understanding of the impact of HIV on exposed infants is needed and new programs and interventions must take into consideration the long-term health needs of this growing population. The introduction of lifelong treatment for all HIV-infected pregnant women is an opportunity to rethink how we provide services adapted for the long-term retention of mother–infant pairs.

A new and more expansive agenda must be articulated to ensure that those infants and children who will never feel the impact of the current elimination agenda are reached and linked to appropriate care and treatment. This agenda must addresses challenges around both reducing vertical transmission through PMTCT and ensuring access to appropriate HIV testing, care, and treatment for all affected children who were never able to access PMTCT programming. Option B+, or universal test and treat for HIV-infected pregnant women, is an excellent start, but it may be time to rethink our current approaches to delivering PMTCT services. New strategies will reduce vertical transmission to less than 1% for those mother-infant pairs who can access them allowing for the contemplation of not just PMTCT, but actual elimination of MTCT. But expanded thinking is needed to ensure elimination of pediatric HIV.

As of 2012, only 34% of treatment eligible children in low- and middle-income countries were receiving antiretroviral treatment (ART) despite proven benefits of early initiation of antiretroviral treatment (ART) on child survival. We reviewed routine EID (early infant diagnosis) laboratory and paediatric ART patient records to determine missed opportunities for optimizing EID and current status of linkage between EID entry points to paediatric ART initiation in Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. These are three countries with EID coverage of 22, 11 and 14%, respectively and ART coverage rates of 18, 16 and 32%, respectively. This article examines the most likely delivery points for collection of blood samples for EID testing for infant and young children and the most likely referral points for ART initiation of HIV-infected children in these three countries. This data provides evidence of consistent missed opportunities for linking HIV-infected children identified during EID to early ART treatment. We also argue for expanding the provision of EID to other service delivery points beyond PMTCT platform and provide suggestions for better linkages from EID to care and treatment.

Background: Mother-to-child transmission of HIV (MTCT) remains the most prevalent source of pediatric HIV infection. Most PMTCT (prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV) programs have concentrated monitoring and evaluation efforts on process rather than on outcome indicators. In this paper, we review service data from 28,320 children born to HIV-positive mothers to estimate MTCT rates.

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