Tanzania: New Guidelines Seek to Curb Mother to Child HIV Transmission
Tanzania Daily News
By Rose Athumani,
FIRST Lady Mama Salma Kikwete on Wednesday launched the new guidelines on Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) Option B+ in Dar es Salaam, urging women to use the opportunity to test and access the services.
Mama Kikwete went on to urge men to accompany their spouses for testing, to work alongside governments’ efforts to ensure zero HIV/Aids infection and transmission from mother to child.
“PMTCT Option B+ is aimed at ensuring zero transmission of HIV virus from mother to child and this will not be achieved if both parents will not go for testing.
With PMTCT Option B+ a pregnant mother living with HIV virus will be put on the treatment immediately,” she explained. The traditional approach to PMTCT required a specific CD4 cell count before initiating antiretroviral prophylaxis.
However, due to a number of barriers including access to reliable CD4 testing machines and the fact that some women often do not have access to consistent PMTCT services Option B+ approach was developed.
The approach offers all HIV-positive pregnant women lifelong antiretroviral therapy, regardless of their clinical stage or CD4 count.
Mama Kikwete noted that the guidelines will help provide the procedure and what needs to be done for PMTCT Option B+ to be successful.
“I urge everyone including politicians, government, development partners, religious organizations and other stakeholders to work together in educating the public to use these health services. It is not easy for one to deal with news of being positive, while pregnant and taking the drugs at the same time,” she added.
She urged all stakeholders involved to use life examples when providing public education to make it easier for the public and especially pregnant women to accept their status and understand that their newly born will be free of the virus.
The First Lady noted that Tanzania is among 20 countries with high rate of HIV prevalence, where 160,000 children under 15 years are living with the virus. She said out of the 160,000, 80 per cent (128,000) got their virus from their mothers while 32,000 was from other sources.
“The statistics show that a lot of babies are born with the HIV virus every year and very few of them attain the age of 15 years. It is our responsibility as leaders in our respective areas and as a society to ensure children born by HIV positive mothers are prevented from getting the virus,” she explained.
Although PMTCT services were started in 2000 with notably success stories, it has also had challenges which include few health centres that provide testing to children, less than 50 per cent of pregnant mothers attend clinics and out of the number only 50 per cent give birth at health centres.
“This situation denies children the opportunity to recent heath care and antiretroviral treatment. Another major challenge is the large percentage of men refusing to be involved,” she added.
The Regional Chief Medical Officer Grace Makenge revealed that between 300 to 400 pregnant women attend clinic on daily basis, adding that out of the 90 per cent of women who gave birth in hospitals, 6.9 per cent were put on PMTCT.
She said PMTCT Option B+ will be implemented in two phases, the first being that by April this year 96 health centres and hospitals and in the second phase 140 health centres and hospitals to be reached.
She added that more than 700 officers will be trained including those providing homebased care and in all 90 wards and 452 streets in the city will have two health service officers to try reach all mothers living with the virus.