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Lesotho: Drugs to Curb a Deadly Inheritance

September 29, 2011

Lesotho, where 23 percent of the population are HIV-positive, is working with UNICEF and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria to test three versions of the "Mother-Baby Pack" for HIV prevention and treatment. Since January, more than 14,000 test packs have been distributed.

When a pregnant woman visits a health clinic and is found to be HIV-positive with a CD4 count above 350, she is given a pack containing the antiretroviral AZT, to be taken starting at 14 weeks of pregnancy. The pack also includes nevirapine for the baby, to be given from birth until the infant is six weeks old.


For HIV-positive mothers with a CD4 count below 350, the pack includes the same medicine and dosing schedule for the baby, along with three, and sometimes four, antiretrovirals for the mother. A third pack, for women who do not have HIV, contains only nutritional supplements.

All the packs have an instructional pamphlet in the local language, Sesotho, and the packages are color-coded to show which drugs to take and when. Pictures are included for women who cannot read.

Some health experts question whether the packs could do more harm than good, since having seven months of medicines could make pregnant women less likely to seek prenatal care. There also is a chance the drugs could be misused and lead to resistance, or that stigma could cause some women to shun the packs.

"We are about to evaluate the program and will be able to objectively respond on the impact," said Dr. Mpolai M. Moteetee, Lesotho's director-general of health services. At that point, officials will know "how well the pack is received, the mothers' capacity to use the medicines properly, and whether it is aiding in proper treatment."

Back to other news for September 2011

Adapted from:
New York Times
09.27.2011; Nicholas Bakalar

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
10 Common Fears About HIV Transmission
More on HIV Prevention in Lesotho

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