Prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT)
In 2009, an estimated 860,000 pregnant women were found to be living with HIV in Eastern and Southern Africa, more than in any other region of the world.
The region is also home to 47 percent of the global total of children living with HIV, of which over 90 percent were infected through vertical transmission from the mother to the baby during pregnancy, delivery or breastfeeding.
Without effective treatment, more than half of all babies born with HIV will die before their second birthday. In high-burden countries in Southern Africa, HIV contributes to between 10 and 28 percent of all deaths among children under five years of age.
Moreover, HIV contributes to a high portion of maternal deaths in ESA, especially in Southern Africa where they ranged from 26.8 percent in Mozambique to 67.3 percent in Swaziland in 2010.
The risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV can be reduced to less than 5 percent through a combination of prevention measures (PMTCT) , including antiretroviral therapy (ART) for the expectant mother and her new-born child, hygienic delivery conditions and safe infant feeding.
According to new guidelines issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), a woman with HIV can breastfeed her baby in settings where it is judged to be the safest infant feeding option. She must, however, breastfeed exclusively and she or her newborn need to receive ART at the same time.
Although many countries have made great efforts to establish PMTCT services, many pregnant women in rural areas do not have the means to reach them. Among those who attended antenatal care in 2010, less than a half received an HIV test.