PMTCT (Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission)

Evidence suggests that disclosure of HIV status between partners may influence prevention of maternal-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) outcomes. We report partner disclosure in relation to maternal antiretroviral therapy (ART) uptake and adherence, and MTCT among postpartum HIV-infected Malawian women. A cross-sectional mixed-method study was conducted as part of a nationally representative longitudinal cohort study. Between 2014–2016, all (34,637) mothers attending 54 under-5 clinics with their 4–26 week-old infants were approached, of which 98% (33,980) were screened for HIV; infants received HIV-1 DNA testing. HIV-exposure was confirmed in 3,566/33,980 (10.5%). Among 2882 couples, both partners, one partner, and neither partner disclosed to each other in 2090 (72.5%), 622 (21.6%), and 169 (5.9%), respectively. In multivariable models, neither partner disclosing was associated with no maternal ART, suboptimal treatment adherence and MTCT.  

We investigated factors associated with unintended index pregnancy, unmet contraceptive need, future pregnancy intention and current contraceptive use among Malawian women living with HIV in the Option B+ era. Women who tested HIV positive at 4–26 weeks postpartum were enrolled into a cross-sectional study at high-volume under-5 clinics.  We enrolled 578 HIV-positive women between May 2015-May 2016; median maternal age was 28 years (y), median parity was 3 deliveries, and median infant age was 7 weeks. Overall, 41.8% women reported unintended index pregnancy, of whom 35.0% reported unmet contraceptive need and 65.0% contraceptive failure. High prevalence of unintended index pregnancy and unmet contraceptive need among HIV-positive women highlight the need for improved access to contraceptives. To help achieve reproductive goals and elimination of MTCT of HIV, integration of family planning into HIV care should be strengthened to ensure women have timely access to a wide range of family planning methods with low failure risk.

In the last decade, many strategies have called for integration of HIV and child survival platforms to reduce missed opportunities and improve child health outcomes. Countries with generalized HIV epidemics have been encouraged to optimize each clinical encounter to bend the HIV epidemic curve. This systematic review looks at integrated child health services and summarizes evidence on their health outcomes, service uptake, acceptability, and identified enablers and barriers. Interventions of interest were HIV services integrated with: neonatal/child services for children <5 years, hospital care of children <5 years, immunizations, and nutrition services. Outcomes of interest were: health outcomes of children <5 years, integrated services uptake, acceptability, and enablers and barriers. Twenty-eight articles were reviewed. Service integration had positive effects on child health outcomes, HIV testing, and postnatal service uptake. Integrated services were generally acceptable, although confidentiality and stigma were concerns. Each clinical “touch point” with infants and children is an opportunity to provide comprehensive health services. In the current era of flat funding levels, integration of HIV and child health services is an effective, acceptable way to achieve positive child health outcomes.

In 2011, the Malawi Ministry of Health introduced option B+, a universal treatment strategy for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV. Under option B+, all pregnant or breastfeeding women with HIV are eligible for lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART) regardless of clinical stage or CD4. Routine data from Malawi's prevention of MTCT option B+ programme suggest high uptake of antiretroviral therapy (ART) among pregnant women. Malawi's Ministry of Health led the National Evaluation of Malawi's PMTCT Program to obtain nationally representative data on maternal ART coverage and prevention of MTCT effectiveness. Here we present the early transmission data for infants aged 4–12 weeks and used a multistage cluster design to recruit a nationally representative sample of HIV-exposed infants and their mothers. Between October 16, 2014 and May 17, 2016, we screened for HIV in all mothers attending an under-5 vaccination or outpatient sick-child clinic with infants aged 4–26 weeks. They confirmed HIV exposure in 3542 (10·4%) of 33 980 mother (guardian)–infant pairs with infants aged 4–26 weeks. These data suggest that Malawi's decentralization of ART services has resulted in higher ART coverage and lower early MTCT. However, the uptake of services for HIV-exposed infants remains suboptimal.

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.

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