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At a glance: Haiti

Partners In Health: Preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission in Haiti

© UNICEF video
Zanmi Lasante, a UNICEF-supported NGO, operates nine health centres in Haiti with services that include treatment and care for pregnant women living with HIV.

By Lisa Carlbom

NEW YORK, USA, 6 December 2007 – In Haiti, where 2.2 per cent of the adult population is living with HIV, accordng to the latest Demographic and Health Survey, care and prevention are urgent issues. The Zanmi Lasante (‘Partners In Health’ in Haitian Creole) project is actively working to reduce the number of new infections, with a special focus on curbing mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Founded in 1985, Zanmi Lasante is a non-governmental organization dedicated to helping those who could not otherwise afford adequate health care. Over the past two decades, the project has expanded to include nine health centres in Haiti that are partially funded by UNICEF and provide health services for pregnant women living with HIV.

“We always work with the mothers. We do counselling and we help them realize that life is not over and there is medication to help them go on,” said Zanmi Lasante nurse Fabiola Coqmard, who works at the centre in the city of Lascahobas.

Wide range of services

After giving birth, new mothers are asked to stay at the Lascahobas centre in order to ensure their future health and that of their children. According to the project’s own statistics, its use of antiretroviral drugs to prevent HIV transmission from mothers to children has been quite successful, with only a small percentage of children remaining HIV-positive after birth.

© UNICEF video
According to Zanmi Lasante’s statistics, antiretroviral drugs used to prevent HIV transmission from mothers to children result in only a small percentage of children remaining HIV-positive after birth.

The staff at the centre does its best to work with patients in all aspects of their lives. “We help them with any kind of problem, whether at a psychological or nutritional level,“ said Ms. Coqmard.

For adult patients living with HIV, the centre has developed a ‘companion system’ to ensure that people take their medication on a daily basis. Under this system, a designated person (sometimes another patient) visits the patient at home, providing care and companionship.

One mother’s story

Rosemene is one of the women in the programme who is living with HIV. As a teenager, she gave birth to twin boys. Thanks to the health services at the Zanmi Lasante centre, both of Rosemene’s children are HIV-negative.

The centre also provides her with food and health services, and has recently given her a job.

“After the HIV test, they gave me medication and told me to come back to the health centre in a month. The nurse talked to me in a very nice way,” recalled Rosemene. “I am feeling great living with my kids. I am infected but not my kids, and I praise the Lord for that.”




November 2007:
UNICEF’s Lisa Carlbom reports on health services provided to women and children by the Zanmi Lasante centre in Lascahobas, Haiti.
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