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Fiji’s Ministry of Health in Partnership with UNICEF Launch Integrated Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) Center

© UNICEF Pacific
Permanent Secretary for Health, Women and Social Welfare – Dr Lepani Waqatakirewa, UNICEF’s Regional Director for the East Asia and Pacific Region, Ms. Anupama Rao Singh and UNICEF Pacific Representative, Dr. Isiye Ndombi at the launch.

SUVA, 13 November, 2008 – In 2005, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) addressed a Call to Action for all those working to protect children from the consequences of the HIV epidemic. It urged the international community to Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS to ensure that the next generation of children is AIDS-free.

Fiji’s children, however, are still at risk of being infected. Of the 7,000 deliveries at the Colonial War Memorial (CWM) Hospital in 2007, 7 mothers were confirmed to be HIV+ since the availability of ARV drugs in Fiji in 2004. Of the 7 infants born to HIV+ positive mothers, 2 were confirmed as having contracted the virus.

CWM is the only hospital in the country currently rendering Integrated Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) services. The Integrated PMTCT Center is based within CWM’s Antenatal Clinic and has been providing services since 2005. As a result of the scaling-up of PMTCT service provision, the CWM Hospital has seen a dramatic drop of transmission rate from 33% to 10%.

Today, the Permanent Secretary for Health, Women and Social Welfare – Dr Lepani Waqatakirewa and UNICEF’s Regional Director for the East Asia and Pacific Region, Ms. Anupama Rao Singh, are officially launching the Integrated PMTCT Center at CWM Hospital.

UNICEF’s Chief of HIV and AIDS Programme, Dr. Annefrida Kisesa said “For a country like Fiji, where HIV infection is still rising, making information, skills and services accessible to everyone at greater risk of acquiring infection is the key to breaking this cycle of transmission. And integrating services that prevent transmission with reproductive health services offers a great opportunity to reach many people and save the lives of children and their parents.”

In order for the success of CWM’s Integrated PMTCT center to continue, women must have expanded access to quality focused antenatal, delivery and postpartum care, and must use the existing services more frequently and earlier in pregnancy than they currently do.
 
Most children living with HIV are infected by parents who are living with HIV. Well over 90% of new infections among infants and young children occur through mother-to-child transmission. Without any interventions, between 20% and 45% of infants may become infected, with an estimated risk of 5-10% during pregnancy, 10-20% during labour and delivery, and 5-20% through breastfeeding. The overall risk can be reduced to less than 2% by a package of evidence-based interventions.

HIV can be prevented in children by preventing the parents from initial infection, by preventing unplanned pregnancies in women with HIV, by ensuring that pregnant women with HIV have the care that prevents mother-to-child transmission, and by ensuring that HIV+ mothers, their children and families have access to appropriate treatment, care and support services.

Dr Kisesa said “Since the Colonial War Memorial Hospital is the main national hospital where so many babies are delivered each year and Suva is the capital city where more numbers of people with HIV have been reported, it is obvious that this service is greatly needed.” She added that the center will offer quality focused antenatal care services, with strong referral links to maternal, newborn and child health and anti-retroviral therapy services.
 
“By having an Integrated PMTCT center in CMW, all pregnant women and their partners will benefit from Provider Initiated HIV Testing and Counseling with consent, Partner involvement in counseling, Provision of anti-retroviral drugs, Counseling on safer infant feeding practice, Safe delivery, and Post-natal care for the mother and her infant,” she said.

UNICEF is providing the Ministry of Health with financial and technical assistance to ensure that services run smoothly.

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For more information, please contact Donna Hoerder, Ph: (+679) 3300 439, dhoerder@unicef.org

 

 

 

 

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