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 My song against AIDS
 Data briefs: Progress and disparity

Mother-to-child transmission risk better known

More than 70% of women aged 15 to 49 in 11 HIV-endemic countries including the Central African Republic, Haiti, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe (see list) know that a mother infected with HIV can transmit the virus to her child.

Survey data from 17 countries show that awareness of transmission risk is highest in countries with high HIV-prevalence rates and much lower in countries with relatively low HIV-prevalence rates, such as Chad, Madagascar, Mali and Niger.

In 1999, 1.3 million children under the age of 15 were infected with HIV. In many of these cases, the virus was passed from mother to child during late pregnancy, labour, childbirth or breastfeeding.

These figures suggest, therefore, that awareness of risk and knowledge of how to avoid transmitting the virus are still not sufficient to stem its spread.

Voluntary testing and counselling must be available in antenatal clinics to provide information on what women can do if they are HIV positive and, given their situation, what acceptable alternatives to breastfeeding exist.

Also, even in countries where HIV is most prevalent, the majority of mothers are not HIV positive, and it is important that testing and counselling services are available to help them avoid infection.

Mothers' knowledge
Percentage of women (aged 15-49) who know that the AIDS virus can be transmitted from a mother to her child

Dominican Rep. 96 Central African Rep 70
Zimbabwe 92 Côte d'Ivoire 66
Zambia 88 Cameroon 65
Kenya 85 Benin 62
Uganda 85 Madagascar 58
South Africa 84 Mali 41
Peru 79 Chad 36
Haiti 74 Niger 26
Tanzania 73    

Source: DHS and other nationwide surveys, 1994-1999.

In northern Thailand, rates of mother-to-child transmission among women participating in such programmes have dropped from 25% to 7.5%.

These programmes also offer uninfected women and their partners information on how to avoid infection and assist those who are infected in making informed decisions about sexual practices, child-bearing and infant feeding.

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