|UNICEF supports the expansion of PMTCT services into rural areas where many remote communities have limited access to health clinics.|
What is the response?
Ensuring that no baby is born with HIV is an essential step towards achieving an AIDS-free generation. An intervention known as “prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV,” or PMTCT, provides drugs, counselling and psychological support to help mothers safeguard their infants against the virus. Ensuring PMTCT is provided to all women that need it is our most effective way to eliminating new HIV infections among children and keeping their mothers alive by 2015. As increasingly more pregnant women living with HIV receive access to antiretroviral treatment, fewer children are being newly infected with HIV.
Whether HIV-infected or not, children born to women living with HIV, have increased risk of morbidity and mortality. And poverty, isolation and distance from health care facilities can place them beyond the reach of life-saving care. Partners must also work together so that HIV exposed children are identified early and provided with follow-up treatment, care and support throughout childhood, and into adolescence and adulthood.
What is UNICEF doing?
By making things as simple as possible, UNICEF aims to reach more women and children, even in a rural clinic with no doctors. Offering an HIV test that gives a rapid result in just a few minutes as part of the first visit for routine antenatal care for pregnant women is a first step. Then, for women who test HIV positive, offering them treatment – “one pill, once per day” – starting as early as possible – is key. This approach puts the health of the mother at the centre. Treatment not only protects the health of the mother living with HIV, but also prevents transmission to her child – in utero, during delivery or during the breastfeeding period. And treatment also prevents sexual transmission among discordant couples – where one partner is HIV positive and the other is HIV negative. To ensure that children living with the virus receive the care they need, UNICEF also works to scale up early infant diagnosis and provide simplified HIV treatment for children.
To do this, UNICEF is focused on integrating HIV care, treatment and support for women living with HIV and their families into strengthened antenatal, postnatal and child health platforms including at the local level.
ANC: Antenatal care
DBS: Dried Blood Spot
PMTCT: Prevention of Mother-to-child transmission
MTCT: Mother-to-child transmission