Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT)
While mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV has been virtually eliminated from industrialized countries, services fall alarmingly short of the needs in low and middle-income countries. In the absence of any PMTCT intervention, it is estimated that 30 to 45 percent of children born to HIV infected mothers will be infected with HIV. The transmission of HIV from an infected mother to her child can be prevented almost entirely through a package of interventions that includes antiretroviral drug use, safe delivery practices and infant feeding counseling and support; integrated and linked with measures to prevent HIV in women, improve sexual and reproductive health and provide care, treatment and support services to all infected women and their families.
While this response may seem simple, the technical capacity along with the human and financial resources required to ensure a continuum of quality and sustained PMTCT services is beyond what the health care systems of most countries in the region can currently afford. In fact, only 2.9% of all pregnant women in the region received counseling on PMTCT in 2004, and only 1.3% of HIV+ pregnant women received antiretroviral drugs to prevent the spread of HIV to their babies. UNICEF is committed to work with partners to support national governments to increase coverage to reach 80% of women in need. For the 2010 goal to be met, a major investment in macro level policy and infrastructure, as well as materiel and training is still required to scale-up PMTCT to national levels.
One of the countries which has greatly enhanced its PMTCT services is Cameroon. UNICEF Cameroon office has been supporting central authorities to scale up national PMTCT programs with the development of national policies and technical guidelines, a standardized training curriculum and, a national plan. In addition, UNICEF is helping to strengthen capacity (both human resources and equipments) at the central level. As a result, the Cameroon national program scaled up PMTCT service delivery from only 6 sites in December 2001 to 350 sites by June 2005. This means that PMTCT services are available in 60% of all medical districts.