THE the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), has launched a national validation committee to manage and monitor the Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (EMTCT) and Syphilis.
By Michael Gwarisa
The committee comprises of experts in various spheres of the health industry, legal experts, health rights activists and people living with HIV. The Secretariat will include the National Aids Council Chief Executive Officer, Dr Tapuwa Mugure and the World Health Organisation.
The committee is also made up of Principal Director prevention services in the MoHCC Dr Gibson Mhlanga, Director AIDS TB, Dr Owen Mugurungi, CWGH executive director, Itai Rusike, SafAids Executive director Loice Chingandu, Dr Portia Manangazira, Willard Madzima, Dr Tirivanhu Zizhou, Dr Agnes Mahomva, Tendai Westerhoff, PEPFAR Country Coordinator Mark Troger, Prof Rose Kambarami, ZLHR Lawyer, Tinashe Mundawarara.
Officiating at the ceremony, Health minister Dr David Parirenytwa said the committee would oversee the process of validation for dual elimination of MTCT of HIV and Syphilis which is an important global public health priority.
“The dual elimination serves to improve a broad range of maternal and child health services and outcomes. This will directly contribute to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3, 5 and 10, which aspire to ensure health and well-being for all, achieve gender equality and empower women and girls, and reduce inequalities in access to services and commodities. Additionally, the similarity of the control interventions necessary to prevent transmission of HIV and syphilis in pregnancy adds to the feasibility and benefit of such an integrated approach to the elimination of MTCT of both infections.
“Globally 9 countries have been validated for EMTCT of HIV and Syphilis, 1 for EMTCT of HIV only and 1 for EMTCT of Syphilis only from 2015 to date. However, none of these countries validated is in the African Region and it is our hope that in the immediate future we will witness the first African Country being validated,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
He added that MTCT of HIV was a significant contributor to the HIV pandemic, accounting for 9% of new infections globally. UNAIDS reported that in 2016 an estimated 160 000 children were newly infected with HIV, and an estimated 3.1 million children were living with HIV globally.
“In 2012 (the most recent global data), WHO estimated that over 900 000 pregnant women were infected with Syphilis. These maternal infections resulted in more than 350 000 estimated adverse pregnancy outcomes including preterm and low-birth-weight infants, serious neonatal infections and over 200 000 stillbirths or neonatal deaths. Both MTCT of HIV and Syphilis are preventable with effective public health interventions that are in place and these deaths and adverse pregnancy outcomes are unnecessary.”
He also said Successful prevention of MTCT of HIV is dependent on various interventions targeted at women of child bearing age including: preventing HIV infection in women, including those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, preventing unintended pregnancies in women with HIV, preventing vertical transmission or HIV transmission from women to their infants and providing care, treatment and support for mothers with HIV and their children.
“Sustained EMTCT of HIV and Syphilis can only be achieved if no one is left behind and universal access to these services is very critical.
“WHO has set the criteria for validation which include impact and process indicators as follows: Impact criteria for validation of EMTCT include: for HIV, ≤50 new pediatric infections per 100,000 live births and a transmission rate of either <5% in breastfeeding populations or <2% in non-breastfeeding populations; and for syphilis, ≤50 cases of congenital syphilis per 100,000 live births. Required process criteria for validation of EMTCT include: 95% of pregnant women to receive antenatal care (ANC); 95% of pregnant women to receive HIV and syphilis testing in pregnancy; and 95% of pregnant women diagnosed with HIV or syphilis to receive treatment.”
He also emphasised that in addition to these impact and process indicators for validation, elimination must be achieved while protecting human rights and with the involvement of women and affected communities in all interventions, including in planning and designing programmes, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.
“The National Validation Committee being nominated today will be responsible for the coordination of the data collection, revision and writing of the country report; and serve as counterpart to the Regional Secretariat, the Regional Validation Committee.
“I want to assure the Ministry of Health and Child Care of the continued support from all the three levels of WHO to achieve EMTCT validation. The WHO country office has a particularly important role in the validation process, as it serves as the first point of contact with the national stakeholders. The WHO country office in collaboration with other partners will provide technical support to the country for development of reports. In addition, the WCO will provide support for and serve as intermediary between the regional level and the NVC.”
Meanwhile, EGPAF country director Dr Agnes Mahomva said it was possible to eliminate MTCT of HIV and Syphilis and called on collective effort from government and partners towards this cause.