South Africa: Test Every Baby for HIV, Pleads Top Specialist
June 7, 2007
Experts blame HIV/AIDS for the fact that South Africa is one of the few nations with a rising rate of infant mortality. Now, a leading AIDS specialist is asking the government to require HIV tests for all of the 1 million babies born in the country each year.
All South African infants should be tested for HIV when they receive their six-week vaccinations, said Dr. Harrie Moultrie of the University of Witwatersrand's pediatric HIV clinic. Such routine testing would also help the government meet its target, expressed in the National Strategic AIDS Plan of providing cotrimoxazole, an antibiotic that reduces the risk of potentially deadly infections, to all HIV-positive babies by 2011. Moultrie spoke at a sideline session before the start of the third South African National AIDS Conference in Durban.
"Unless we deal with prevention of mother-to-child transmission, there is no way South Africa can cope with the demands for [treatment]," Moultrie said, noting that the public health system is struggling to provide antiretrovirals for current patients.
In addition, Moultrie called on the health department to revise its treatment guidelines for HIV-positive children. Doctors should be able to start children on antiretrovirals based on the presence of AIDS-defining illnesses, he said, rather than on CD4 cell counts.
Business Day (Johannesburg)
06.06.2007; Tamar Kahn