South Africa Project Improves Treatment for HIV-Positive Pregnant Women
March 16, 2011
A new project is launching to improve HIV-positive pregnant women's access to antiretroviral (ARV) therapy in Gugulethu, just outside of Cape Town. The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation awarded the project's head an International Leadership Award, and he will use the $300,000 grant to fund it.
"It's a community of about 300,000 people of predominantly low socio-economic status, who live in a context of extreme poverty and with a very high prevalence of HIV infections," said project chief Dr. Landon Myer, an associate professor with the University of Cape Town's School of Public Health and the Desmond Tutu HIV Center. "The prevalence of HIV in this setting is about 28 percent, and so HIV presents an incredible problem to the community and to HIV-infected women who are pregnant in particular."
"The underlying issue is that life-long antiretroviral therapy is the best form of prophylaxis or prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV," Myer said. "At the same time, it's a critical intervention for the health of HIV-infected mothers."
"The existing antenatal health service, midwife obstetrics units they're called, are very good at providing simple, short-course antiretroviral regimens to pregnant women who are HIV-infected but don't have advanced disease," Myer said. "And an entirely separate health service is focused on starting antiretroviral therapy in eligible adults, regardless of [gender or pregnancy status]. And we find that these pregnant women tend to fall between the cracks between these two very different services."
The lack of integrated ARV treatment makes it difficult for the women to arrange transportation, child care, and time off of work, Myer said. If successful, the project will identify interventions applicable both in South Africa and across sub-Saharan Africa.
Voice of America News
03.02.2011; Joe DeCapua
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