UPTAKE of Anti Retro Viral (ARVs) drugs has been scientifically proven to be safe even for pregnant women contrary to the popular belief that expecting women are not allowed to take any medication during the gestation period.
By Michael Gwarisa in Chinhoyi
Briefing Journalists during a National Aids Council (NAC) Media sensitisation workshop in Chinhoyi, National PMTCT and Paediatric HIV Care and Treatment Coordinator in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Angela Mushavi said HIV positive pregnant women should register at health institutions early so as to get tested to ensure safety of the unborn child
“As part of our Star Free. Stay Free. AIDS Free framework, we are calling on all pregnant women to get tested early for HIV. This can only be achieved through registering at health centres early. Unlike the old days where a pregnant mother would not access Anti retro viral (ART) treatment, we are saying initiate early and prevent mother to child transmission.
“Mother to child transmission still accounts for 6.74% in Zim, this percentage could be reduced further downwards with increased efforts and awareness. It is safe for HIV pregnant women to ne initiated on ART as there are no proven side-effects the drugs cause to the unborn baby,” said Dr Mushavi.
Zimbabwe had progressed in terms of preventing mother to child transmission over the years but however noted that there were some areas which were still lagging behind.
“Areas like Umguza, Mrehwa, and other communal areas are still lagging behind in terms of paediatric ART services as well as initiating pregnant mothers on ART. This is as a result of various factors which include cultural beliefs and poor access to health facilities,” she said.
According to the UNAIDS 2016 statistics, among pregnant women living with HIV, 93% (75% – >95%) were accessing treatment or prophylaxis to prevent transmission of HIV to their children. Among people living with HIV, approximately 64% (58% – 71%) had suppressed viral loads.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe is still grappling with diagnosing Paediatric Tuberculosis (TB) owing to poor proper training of health personnel as well as difficulty in children under the ages five to cough out sputum for sampling.
Ministry of Health and Child Care, Zimbabwe AIDS & TB deputy director, Dr Charlse Sandy said Zimbabwe had a high paediatric TB burden and efforts were under way to improve its diagnosis through other means.
“Childhood TB is a high burden in Zimbabwe, you find that the country has a burden 18 t0 20 percent higher than other countries. What happens is when they cough, sometimes they just swallow the sputum making it difficult to collect samples.
“Children unlike adults, are not able to cough out the sputum which can be later taken for sampling. So at times we use the invasive method where we insert a tube inside the baby to collect some saliva and mucus samples. We have also adopted some measures whereby we could collect stool samples for testing,” said Dr Sandi.