Zimbabwe makes lifelong anti-retroviral treatment available to all HIV positive pregnant women
By Yollanda Washaya
Chikomba, 13 November 2013- The Vice President of Zimbabwe Hon. Joice Mujuru has launched OPTION B+ where all pregnant women who test HIV positive will immediately be placed on lifelong anti-retroviral treatment.
In the past, only women whose CD4 count was less than 350 were eligible for anti-retroviral treatment. Under the new regimen, as soon as a pregnant woman is diagnosed with HIV, she is immediately placed on anti-retroviral treatment, which continues even after she delivers her baby. This new regimen, first implemented in Malawi, is intended to prevent the transmission of the HIV virus from the mother to her baby was well as to prolong the mother’s life.
At the launch at Madziire Secondary School in Chikomba district, Vice-President Mujuru said HIV-positive women would now be taking a three-in-one pill everyday instead of three different ARVs. She said the government was fully committed to ending HIV and AIDS and supports programmes like Option B+ which addresses the root cause of new born HIV infections.
“Our being here today marks another significant milestone in our endeavor to have an HIV free generation by 2015,” she said. “Furthermore, it demonstrates Government’s commitment to the attainment of Millennium Development Goals 4, 5 and 6 which seek to reduce child mortality, improve maternal health and combat HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases respectively by 2015.”
She said Option B+ was necessitated by the fact that huge numbers of new infections in children and HIV-related deaths continue to be recorded in the country. An estimated 10, 000 new infections were recorded each year with 90 per cent of these occurring through mother-to-child transmission. Furthermore, 21 per cent of under-five deaths were HIV related.
“From today onwards, HIV positive pregnant women will be offered a single tablet that contains three anti-retrovirals, the three-in-one pill, which will be taken once per day for life. It protects the health of the HIV positive woman and also prevents transmission of the virus to the baby,” she said.
In attendance at the launch was the Minister of Health and Child Care Dr. David Parirenyatwa, Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha, Minister of State for Provincial Affairs in Mashonaland East Simbaneuta Mudarikwa, UNICEF Country Representative Reza Hossaini and several government officials and development partners.
UNICEF Representative Reza Hossaini expressed concern at the low percentage of HIV positive children under the age of 15 who were receiving anti-retroviral treatment.
“Only 51 out of every 100 children in need of treatment are accessing life-saving medicines,” he said. “In other words, every other child in need of treatment who is missing out stands a poorer chance of surviving to adulthood. This figure stands in contrast with the 69 per cent of eligible HIV positive adults on ART.”