World AIDS Day: “Show your love for us; take the test”
On 1st December 2012, Sudan joins global celebrations of World AIDS Day. Sudan with support from UNICEF & WHO and other partners are committed to and working together to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV. The activities marking this day include a national launch event in Khartoum on Monday, 3rd Dec which will be addressed by his Excellency, the Vice President of Sudan, as well as many other events are taking place all over the country.
AIDS is a major contributor to maternal and child deaths.
Women will be the focus of this year’s World AIDS Day. An AIDS-free generation is finally within reach, our key message this year, and women – from mothers and caregivers to healthcare workers and policy-makers – are essential to realizing this goal. Therefore, this year, the World AIDS Day centres on women by demonstrating their strength and resilience in the face of the epidemic, and on eliminating Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (eMTCT). Recognizing that AIDS is not a stand-alone issue and that overcoming stigma and isolation is a challenge, eMTCT is still possible by taking four key actions:
Current rates of transmission of HIV from an HIV-positive mother to her child during pregnancy, labour, delivery or breastfeeding range from 15-45%. However, this rate can be reduced to levels below 5% with effective interventions. Evidence shows that elimination of mother to child transmission (eMTCT) with a vision of zero HIV infection among new babies is among the most effective and inexpensive strategy to reduce the burden of HIV/AIDS. In light of these findings, the global community has committed itself to accelerate progress for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (pMTCT) through an initiative to eliminate new paediatric HIV infections by 2015 and to improve maternal, new-born and child survival and health.
In the Middle East and North Africa, analyses show that HIVAIDS is at a low level in some countries or is a concentrated epidemic in others. However, the region is considered to be one the two regions in the world with the fastest growing HIV epidemics. The annual number of people newly infected with HIV has risen in the Middle East and North Africa from 43 000 in 2001 to 59 000 in 2010. Building on the global momentum, countries in the MENA region identified 4 strategic priorities/directions for e-MTCT: 1) commitment; 2) coverage and quality; 3) access for vulnerable women; and integration and linkages.
The HIV situation in Sudan has been classified as a low, concentrated epidemic with prevalence rates of 0.67% among the general population and 0.16% among pregnant women (2009 HIVSSS ANC report). However, in contrast, the Integrated Bio Behavioural Survey (IBBS) of 2011 found alarmingly high rates among most at-risk populations.
In response, Sudan has been proactive in initiating activities that contribute towards achieving the global goal of eMTCT. These include adopting Provider Imitated Testing & Counselling (PITC) and developing a Reproductive Health Integration Strategy, which offers HIV testing services and counselling to all pregnant women who attend routine antenatal clinics. This service has expanded rapidly from only 27 pMTCT sites in 2010 to over 90 sites throughout the country. Nationally, 26,762 women have been tested among whom 87 tested positive. There has also been an increase in the number of husbands tested from 225 in 2011 to 441 this year.
The collective commitment of the Government, UN agencies and civil society – working together- will enable Sudan to reach its strategic aim of eliminating Mother-to-Child Transmission.