|© UNICEF Lesotho/2010|
|Malekena George and her infant daughter Mankhube at home in Lesotho's rural Berea District. Mankhube was born HIV-free thanks to Lesotho's pack of prevention medications.|
NEW YORK, USA, 28 October 2010 – The scheduled launch of UNICEF’s Mother-Baby Pack in Kenya tomorrow is part of a creative response to an unmet need. Every day, more than 1,000 infants worldwide are infected with HIV during pregnancy, labour, delivery or breastfeeding. Most are in sub-Saharan Africa.
Without medical help, at least half of these babies will die before their second birthday. But a medical and social intervention known as prevention of mother-to-child transmission, or PMTCT, can safeguard them from HIV – while protecting the health of their mothers.
Closing gaps in care
Women and infants participating in conventional PMTCT programmes must make repeated visits to a clinic for drugs and preventive care. But across the developing world, poverty and logistical challenges make those frequent visits impossible for many pregnant women living with the virus. And in countries with weak health systems, preventive treatment may not be delivered consistently enough or at sufficiently high quality to stop transmission.
The Mother-Baby Pack is a take-home box of PMTCT drugs designed for women and children who have limited access to conventional, high-quality preventive care. It contains anti-retroviral drugs and antibiotics required to protect the health of one mother and child. The medicines are pre-measured and packaged to make it easy for adults to administer them correctly.
|The open Mother-Baby Pack. Components are packaged in colour-coded boxes containing antibiotic and anti-retroviral medications for HIV-positive pregnant women and their newborns.|
Only pregnant women living with HIV who do not yet require treatment for their own health will receive Mother-Baby Packs.
A concept comes home
UNICEF’s new product was inspired by an idea pioneered in Lesotho. Health workers there gave plain paper bags filled with pre-measured drugs to pregnant women living with HIV, along with instructions on how to take the medicines during and after pregnancy. This proved effective at stopping HIV transmission among women and child unable to attend a regular PMTCT programme.
The UNICEF Mother-Baby Pack builds on and enhances the Lesotho model. It uses drugs produced through a formal arrangement with a single supplier, incorporates design elements to make correct dosing easy and adds standardized training for health workers who will distribute it. The Indian pharmaceutical company CIPLA is producing the pack through an agreement with UNICEF.
The Kenya launch, which will be led by UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, is the first step in a process known as ‘phased implementation with validation.’ This simply means that the pack will be introduced in phases for use in the field, with its performance carefully monitored to ensure that it works as well as possible.
A collaborative effort
While UNICEF provided leadership on creating the Mother-Baby Pack, its development and implementation are only possible through the combined work of several partners, including the World Health Organization, UNITAID, the Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation, the Clinton Foundation and USAID.
And the launch in Kenya is just one part of a larger project - the Nairobi Government’s Maisha Initiative for creating zones free of mother-to-child HIV transmission. This programme is designed to help virtually eliminate mother-to-child-transmission of HIV and paediatric AIDS by 2013 in two Kenyan provinces where about half of all the country’s children with HIV live. The initiative aims to achieve the same results across the entire country by 2015.
The Mother-Baby Pack combines African innovation with resources from around the globe, creating the capacity to save lives that might otherwise be lost. It offers one demonstration of the transformative change that becomes possible when inventive, determined people work together with governments and donors to bring an epidemic to an end.