Mother-to-child HIV transmission successfully prevented in Kavango East
U.S. Ambassador Thomas Daughton travelled to the Kavango East region last week to the Nyangana Catholic Hospital which has implemented a standard operating procedure that has managed to track, test, and follow up on 94.8 % of HIV babies.
Daughton said the achievement of preventing HIV transmission from mother-to-child is thanks to the Ministry of Health and Social Services’ Early Infant Diagnosis programme (EID) with funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
The EID programme implements early postnatal HIV testing of children as early as 48 hours after birth from HIV positive mothers to join mothers and their babies.
Ambassador Daughton highlighted the successful implementation of the programme by the Ministry of Health and Social Services and its implementing partner IntraHealth – a non-profit organization dedicated to improving public health in developing countries.
“It is no secret that HIV-positive infants are at their highest risk to die within the first three months of their life. Therefore, every effort must be made to ensure that children of HIV-positive mothers are diagnosed quickly in order to immediately put them on treatment,” he said.
At the milestone event, Kavango East Governor, Samuel Mbambo described the disease as the enemy of all, calling it a killer that attacks without care whether its victims are mothers, fathers or children.
Mbambo said it is much needed to integrate EID as part of a comprehensive HIV care package that should include immunization, growth monitoring, nutritional counselling, and prevention for infections to improve overall child survival.
“Tracking these babies reduces the percentage of those lost to follow up treatment and also avoids development of new postpartum infections,” Mbambo said.
Meanwhile, since 2004, thanks to several programmes addressing mother-to-child transmission in Namibia, including the USAID Technical Assistance Program (UTAP), the HIV infection rate in children born to HIV-positive mothers has dropped by over 90%, especially in the Nyangana area.