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Regional meeting calls for joint plan of action to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV

© UNICEF Mozambique/ G.Pirozzi
The eastern and southern Africa region accounts for more than 60 per cent of the global burden of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

MAPUTO, Mozambique, 31 March 2011 – A regional consultation meeting for eastern and southern Africa on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV took place in Nairobi, Kenya, between 15 and 17 March this year. At the meeting, potential synergies between PMTCT and improved maternal and newborn health in the region were also discussed. The consultation was motivated by the fact that countries in east and southern Africa, including Mozambique, still bear more than 60 per cent of the global burden of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT), despite significant investments in prevention, expansion of antiretroviral treatment and firm commitments from governments and donors.

In order to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and save lives, it is urgent that national governments and their partners act vigorously and hold themselves accountable for commitments made to the elimination of MTCT. They need to recognize the critical importance of MTCT both to maternal, newborn and child health and to the strengthening of health systems. As the world gears up for the last push towards attaining the MDGs, MTCT in relation to both these critical areas must receive full attention. 

“The meeting focused on the development of an African regional framework and a Joint Action Plan towards the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV,” says Paula Libombo, a Health Specialist at UNICEF Mozambique.

Participants came from 16 countries in the region and included representatives from UNAIDS, UNICEF, WHO, the Global Fund, UNITAID, PEPFAR and civil society organizations.

“One important goal of the meeting was to explore ways to improve the maternal, neonatal and child health platform within our regional and country-specific context,” said Libombo.

The meeting was designed to be interactive and pulled its strength from the sharing of expertise, technical insight and programmatic experience from countries implementing and scaling up PMTCT. Lessons learnt, best practices and key challenges in the context of maternal, neonatal and child health were also shared. 

In order to establish a coherent and coordinated approach in support of regional and country level efforts toward elimination of MTCT, within the broader context of global maternal, newborn and child health, the countries in the region were profiled according to their PMTCT coverage levels and other characteristics. These profiles were used to identify priorities and develop national plans of action to address them. The participants also consulted about ways to make the elimination of mother-to-child transmission more prominent within the field of mother, neonatal and child health in the region.

In 2010, only 60 per cent of HIV-positive expectant mothers enrolled in the PMTCT programme and received prophylaxis against HIV during antenatal care in Mozambique.

The priority issues identified included: ensuring continued commitment to achieving agreed goals; improving coverage, access and utilization of services; strengthening the quality of interventions; enhancing the provision of integrated services linking HIV and maternal, neonatal and child health; promoting the strengthening of health systems; improving measurement; and increasing community involvement. Together, these priorities form the building blocks for a regional framework on eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

In Mozambique, the risk of HIV transmission from mother to child has gone down in recent years. The number of PMTCT sites across the country increased from 744 in 2009 to 909 in 2010, and 361 of these have been supported by UNICEF.  During 2010, 69,826 HIV-positive pregnant women received antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to reduce the risk of vertical transmission, about half the estimated number of pregnant women living with HIV. However, only 42,162 (60 per cent) of the babies born to these HIV-positive mothers received prophylaxis for HIV.

The number of HIV-positive children receiving ARV drugs had reached 17,395 by December 2010, which is a marked improvement when compared to 13,505 children in 2009 and 9,393 in 2008. Despite this increase, the unmet need for paediatric AIDS care and treatment in Mozambique is still very high – some three quarters of children requiring ARV drugs are not receiving them, underscoring the need for more investment in this area.

For more information, please contact:

Arild Drivdal, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email: maputo@unicef.org

Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email: maputo@unicef.org

 

 
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