Pregnant women infected with HIV are at high risk of transmitting HIV to their infants during pregnancy, during birth or through breastfeeding. Over 90% of new HIV infections among infants and young children occur through Mother to Child Transmission.
However, not every baby born to an HIV infected mother will be infected with HIV. Without any intervention, the risk of transmission of infection from the mother to the baby is 20-45 per cent. With an evidence-based set of comprehensive interventions, this transmission rate can be reduced to less than 2 per cent.
The United Nations comprehensive approach to PMTCT includes;
1. Primary prevention of HIV among women of child bearing age
2. Preventing unintended pregnancy among women living with HIV
3. Preventing HIV transmission from a woman living with HIV to her infant
4. Providing appropriate treatment, care and support to women living with HIV and their children and their families.
Despite many challenges, momentum is now growing and efforts to scale up PMTCT are starting to make an impact.
UNICEF has supported PMTCT programmes since their inception in 1998, starting with initial projects in 11 countries and expanding over the years to over 80 countries. It has played a critical leadership role in setting the global PMTCT agenda in scaling up national PMTCT programmes in resource-limited settings. Areas of support have included:
• guideline and tool-development,
• capacity development (including development of the skills of service providers),
• promotion of methods to expand access to HIV testing and counselling,
• efficient procurement of ARVs and other essential commodities, and
• monitoring and evaluating progress.
The Guidance note on Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV infection aims to provide a brief overview of the PMTCT intervention and suggests a basic approach that can be applied in order to ensure effectiveness and sustainability in the supply system for the PMTCT.
The PMTCT graphic is based on the latest WHO guidelines on antiretroviral (ARV) drug regimens for treating pregnant women and preventing HIV infection in infants; and provides an indicative overview of activities and commodities required for successful PMTCT intervention.