Strategy to combat mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS launched

D.I. Laary, GNA

Accra, Sept. 12, GNA – The Greater Accra
Regional Health Directorate of the Ghana Health Service has launched an
operational plan for elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS
after officials noticed upsurge of cases.

The three-year comprehensive blueprint seeks
to cut down HIV infection to babies to at least five per cent by the end of
breastfeeding period as well as provide antiretroviral therapy to 90 per cent
of pregnant women by 2018.

The regional health officials also hope to
increase access to HIV testing and counselling for pregnant women from 61.5 per
cent to 100 per cent and identify 95 of HIV infected infants by close of the
period 2018.

Dr Vera Opata, Greater Accra regional HIV
Coordinator, giving an overview of the situation in the region during the
launch on Friday, expressed worry that a greater number of transmissions
happened during labour.

She said the region has the highest HIV
prevalence rate with a record of 3.2 per cent in 2015 which is above the
national average of under two per cent.

Mother-To-Child (MTCT) transmission HIV is
the second most common mode of transmission of the deadly virus in the country,
she said, with15 per cent of all new HIV infections coming from mothers to

Transmission of the virus occur largely
during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding, Dr Opata said, but “a big chunk
of the transmission is happening when the woman is in labour.”

Approximately 40 to 45 per cent of infants
born to HIV infected mothers acquire the infection.

She said 10 per cent of the transmissions
occur during pregnancy, 10 to 15 per cent during labour and delivery while 5 to
20 per cent happen during breastfeeding period, depending on duration of

She attributed the bleak situation in the
region to inadequate HIV testing and counselling activities at existing
prevention of MTCT centers as well as inappropriate management of logistics at
various health facilities, deepened by shortage of test kits.

Shortage and irregular supply of
antiretroviral drugs, poor documentation and non-reporting by some health
facilities were also blamed for the development.

The coordinator, however, said health
facilities were challenged by limited availability of space for staff to work,
shortage of trained staff, staff rotation and retirement and ddifficulty of
providing training to private providers who often do not report for training

She said the unavailability of lab equipment
at some antiretroviral therapy sites, delays in repair of broken down lab
equipment and rampant shortage of test kits and drugs often defeated the
purpose to fight the concern.

Effective prevention of MTCT programmes
require women and their infants to have access to – and to take up – a cascade
of interventions including antenatal services and HIV testing during pregnancy.

Access to use of antiretroviral treatment by
pregnant women living with HIV; safe childbirth practices and appropriate
infant feeding; uptake of infant HIV testing and other post-natal healthcare

Implementation of the regional operational
plan is expected to increase the proportion of HIV infected mothers who are
initiated on antiretroviral drugs from 32.1 per cent to 95 per cent.

It is to raise proportion of exposed infants
who are initiated on antiretroviral prophylaxis from 17.1 per cent to 95 per
cent and shore up proportion of exposed infants who are tested at six weeks
after delivery from 22.3 per cent to 95 per cent.

It will also increase the proportion of
exposed infants who are retested at 18 months after delivery from 6.2 per cent
to 95 per cent and push up proportion of pregnant women who had IPT 3 from 24.7
per cent to 80 per cent.

The officials say they put in place tracer
interventions to achieve the targets set from 2016 to 2018.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
and other development partners supported the plan to scale up a programme for
the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV to the 660 health
facilities across districts in the region.


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