Vanuatu’s Ministry of Health in partnership with UNICEF launch Integrated prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services
PORT VILA, 2 December, 2008 -- In 2005, UNICEF addressed a Call to Action for all those working to protect children from the consequences of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It urged the international community to Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS to ensure that the next generation of children is AIDS-free. Yesterday’s launch is a concrete indication of the Government and non-governmental organizations commitment to protect especially the children and women of Vanuatu from the HIV epidemic.
The Honorable Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Mr. Edward Natapei, launched the PMTCT services at the Vila Central Hospital. Accompanying him at this high level launch was the Minister for Health, Mr. Natuman, Director General Health, Mrs. Miriam Abel, Director Public Health, Mr. Len Tarivonda and Manager Hospital Services, Dr Willie Tokon.
UNICEF Chief of Field Office, Ms May Pascual noted this high level commitment and said “UNICEF greatly appreciates having the Prime Minister himself leading World AIDS Day in Vanuatu and launching the Integrated Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services here in Vila Central Hospital, which clearly shows how serious the Government is committed to ensuring that children and their mother’s are at the forefront of the nation’s HIV prevention initiatives”.
Reported cases of HIV in the country may seem low, but for a country like Vanuatu with high risk factors to HIV infection, there is need for more information, skills and services accessible to everyone, who is at a greater risk of acquiring the infection. Globally most children with HIV are infected by parents. Over 90% of new infections among infants & young children occur through mother-to-child transmission.
Vila Central Hospital (VCH) is the main national referral hospital where so many babies are delivered each year. Port Vila is the capital city where high risk behaviors are on the rise including high rates of STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections). It is therefore clear that this service is greatly needed.
By having an Integrated PMTCT service, all pregnant women and their partners will benefit from provider initiated HIV testing and counseling, partner involvement in counseling, provision of anti-retroviral drugs, counseling on safer infant feeding practice, safe delivery, post-natal care for the mother and her infant.
In order for the success of the Integrated PMTCT services 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.
The Honorable Prime Minister launched the PMTCT service at Vila Central Hospital and also ceremonially launched the PMTCT services in the Northern District Hospital in Luganville and the Lenakel Hospital in Tanna.