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International News

Breaking the Chain: The Outlook for South African Babies With HIV Is Grim

April 5, 2012

Last year, the UN set a target of eliminating new HIV infections among children by 2015. Dr. Mitch Besser, founder of the group "mothers2mothers," has been working toward that goal in South Africa since 1999. He notes that early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can cut the risk of mother-to-baby HIV transmission to 2 percent.

The University of Cape Town hired Besser, a Harvard-trained obstetrician, at a time when HIV testing and treatment were uncommon, and shame and denial were rampant. Besser noted the personal challenges he faced connecting to his patients.

"I'm white, I'm American, I speak English, I'm not going to be a mother, and I'm talking to women who have a different culture and are HIV-positive," said Besser. Also, the high volume of patients meant he had little time to spend with each to explain complicated drug regimens and advocate for behavior change.

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More on HIV Treatment in South Africa

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