|© UNICEF Mozambique/2008/ Machiana|
|This health centre in Xai-Xai City, Mozambique provides prevention of mother-to-child transmission services and antiretroviral treatment, as well as a support group for women living with HIV.|
By Emidio Machiana
XAI-XAI, Mozambique, 7 May 2008 – Every Wednesday morning, 30-year-old Telzira, who is living with HIV, attends a support group at the health centre in Xai-Xai city. The group offers encouragement to pregnant women and mothers living with HIV.
The comfort Telzira receives from other women living with the virus and the nurses who lead the group helps her face the future with hope.
“I like to come here because I am well received and treated well,” says Telzira. “In the group we speak about our difficulties, learn how to prepare nutritious food and we receive advice about health care.”
Preventing mother-to-child transmission
The support group has also helped Telzira adhere to her antiretroviral treatment and adequately care for her eight-month-old daughter, who she brings to the health centre for regular consultations for children at risk of contracting HIV.
“I took the HIV test when I was pregnant. It was positive. I began to take the drugs then and so I’m continuing to live like a normal person,” Telzira says.
Programmes like this, which focus on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), are helping to reverse the spread of HIV and mitigate the impact of the pandemic in the country, particularly among women and children.
“Of the 3,520 pregnant women who took the test last year, 913 were positive, and they are all now in the PMTCT programme,” says the Xai-Xai City Health Director, Dr. Adalgis Viola. “Of the 156 children already tested, 132 were HIV-negative, thanks to the PMTCT programme.”
In 2002, UNICEF began to support the establishment of sites focusing on PMTCT in Mozambique. By the end of 2007, about half the health units in the country were offering PMTCT services. This number is fast increasing.
At first, few women in the area would agree to take an HIV test or go to follow-up consultations. In response, health authorities began outreach activities involving traditional birth attendants and other community leaders to advise women on the importance of taking the HIV test and seeking proper treatment.
“We set up these groups because we noticed that, initially, many of the HIV-positive mothers stopped coming with their children after giving birth, arguing that their children were not ill,” explains Dr. Viola. “Now the situation is improving.”