Drug being used to stop mother- to-child HIV spread safe
-Health Ministry maintains
Stabroek News
April 3, 2002

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The Ministry of Health is reassuring all women who are part of the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV programme, and those who are keen to enroll in it, that based on scientific evidence available antiretroviral drugs such as Nevirapine are safe for use and are very effective in preventing transmission of HIV from an infected mother to her baby when used properly.

The Ministry of Health in a recent press release is cautioning the general public against what it describes as "one of the most irresponsible articles in the Kaieteur News of 2002-03-25." The article was captioned "AIDS Drugs could leave Guyana worse off", and the ministry warned that it is "not only irresponsible, but has also caused serious alarm among a number of pregnant mothers enrolled at clinics with the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV programme.

According to the release, the article claimed that the use of antiretroviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission leads to "sterile babies", and that women in South Africa are refusing to use the drug as a result.

The ministry notes that this is ridiculous as studies on the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission began in 1994, a mere eight years ago, therefore, babies born to mothers who have received such drugs cannot have possibly attained reproductive age.

The release also notes that recently in South Africa, 6,343 mothers and 1,932 babies received Nevirapine (a typical antiretroviral drug), and no severe adverse side effects were found in mothers or babies taking single dose regimen Nevirapine as part of a PMTCT.

This evaluation, the release added, can be found on the internet at www.hst.org.za under "Interim Findings on the National PMTCT Pilot Sites; Lessons and Recommendations.

Information on the local PMTCT programme can be obtained at the National AIDS Programme Secretariat, the Office of the Director of Communicable Disease of the Ministry of Health, and the Office of the Chief Medical Officer, the release stated.