US gives US$3.4M to stop HIV transmission from mother to child
-campaign to go nationwide By Samantha Alleyne
September 4, 2003
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The US government backed US$3.4M Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) initiative as part of the fight against HIV/AIDS was yesterday launched at the West Demerara Regional Hospital.
The launch coincided with the expansion of the national PMTCT programme. It was attended by officials who work closely with HIV/AIDS, government ministers and President Bharrat Jagdeo who delivered the feature address.
“President Bush’s PMTCT initiative” will be jointly implemented by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) using the initial US$3.4M to support the fight to prevent HIV infection among newborns in Guyana.
Over the next 18 months the programme is expected to provide life-prolonging anti-retroviral treatment to 350 people, expand PMTCT services to pregnant women by integrating the services with maternal and child health care, and establish voluntary counselling and testing as a way to reach additional HIV positive mothers.
In addition, the programme will ensure that at least 75% of PMTCT sites have regular and adequate supplies and medicines; that health care workers are trained in PMTCT service delivery and the national and regional laboratories’ capacity is strengthened. A communications campaign will also be co-ordinated with local organisations to reduce the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS.
“There is nothing more tragic than babies being born with HIV or a baby dying with AIDS. If a pregnant mother is HIV positive this transmission can happen during pregnancy, at birth or during breast feeding,” said US Ambassador, Roland Bullen.
He stressed that Guyanese children should never die and suffer in this way and accordingly the United States Government through the Bush initiative was determined to eliminate the unnecessary suffering and deaths of children from AIDS.
Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramssamy said the PMTCT programme already in place had been launched in November 2001 in eight centres.
Despite the challenges, “slowly we overcame those constraints. Some of them are still with us, but daunting as it is and with the help of our many partners and the continued support of our other partners we are today able to launch a national programme in all the regions.”
He said the pilot programme had provided counselling for over six thousand women and approximately five thousand had consented to be tested. Out of this number, one hundred and seventy-seven women tested positive for the virus during the period. Out of these, 70% received nevripine and of the babies born to them, 70% also received nevripine.
According to the minister for the first half of this year 87% of the babies received treatment.
In his address, President Jagdeo said that in Guyana the disease was recognised as a threat at an early stage on the political level.
In 2002, President Bush announced a US$500M PMTCT initiative to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The initiative is supporting national programmes to provide PMTCT services to one million HIV-infected pregnant women and to reduce the transmission of HIV from mothers to children by 40% in 14 targeted countries. In addition to Guyana the other countries are: Botswana, Cote d’Ioire, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.