South Africa: Keeping Mom Alive Is the Best AIDS Tactic
July 26, 2005
According to the National HIV and Syphilis Sero-Prevalence Survey in South Africa 200 -- conducted by the Department of Health and released in September 2004 -- 27.9 percent of pregnant women in the country had HIV/AIDS in 2003. Nearly one-third of South African newborns stand to lose their mothers to AIDS-related causes.
Dr. Tshidi Sebitloane of the University of Kwa Zulu-Natal said infant mortality of two-year-old HIV-negative children whose mothers are chronically ill or have died appears to be as high as mortality among HIV-positive children the same age. Yet, attention so far has focused more on preventing mother-to-child transmission than on the future health of HIV-positive mothers.
Sebitloane said that might partly reflect the fact that free antiretroviral (ARV) treatment has only begun to be available in South Africa in the past 18 months, and regulations to improve HIV-positive mothers' access to the drugs are not yet in place. Sebitloane said the Department of Health should make voluntary counseling and HIV and CD4-count testing available at all antenatal clinics.
A program to improve care for HIV-positive mothers, the Mother-to-Child Transmission Plus initiative, launched by Columbia University of New York City, has been implemented at 13 sites in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia and has given 7,000 mothers so far access to ARVs. Three sites are in South Africa.
Feeding babies a mix of breast milk and formula risks facilitating HIV transmission, possibly because this may irritate their bowels, making them more vulnerable to infections, research has shown. But only one-third of mothers responding to a recent survey had been properly advised to use one method exclusively, wean babies at three to four months, and choose formula feeding if they have access to the clean water needed to prepare it.
Inter Press Service
06.12.05; Kristin Palitza
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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.