NATIONAL Prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) and Pediatric HIV Care and Treatment Coordinator in the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), Dr Angela Mushavi says transmission of HIV from mother to child was preventable hence the need for increased efforts in order to reduce the number of children with HIV.
By Patson Gumbo recently in Macheke
Speaking at a media sensitisation workshop that was hosted by the National Aids Council (NAC) in Mucheke, Dr Mushavi said even though the country had brilliant Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV and Syphilis (EMTC) programs and structures, it was still recording worrisome cases of children born with HIV.
We are looking at about 84 295 children living with HIV, which is very big number. Why I say that is we have all the tools necessary to prevent transmission to the child, we have it all. So why do we keep counting thousands of children still living with HIV between the age group 0-14, it means there is something not happening and children are continuing to become HIV infected and yet we can prevent it.
“We recognise that the majority of children living with HIV between the ages 0-14, about 90 to 95% of them were got the disease from their parents. They are born with HIV or they are infected during breastfeeding. In this country, we are talking of dual elimination, we want to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV, but we also want to eliminate mother to child transmission of syphilis. A mother can pass syphilis to an unborn child during pregnancy and the child can be born with very low birth weight or the mother can miscarry, the child might also die in the mother’s womb.” said Dr Mushavi.
Dr. Mushavi added that EMTCT was in line with Vision 2030 that seeks to have an HIV free generation with children born healthy without any other HIV or syphilis related health complications. She also said government was in the process of introducing health posts that are easily accessible and closer to those in rural areas and this would help women living in hard to reach areas to access EMTCT services.
“For the rural areas, there is a lot of work happening. The country has 1560 facilities including in the urban and rural district councils but in some instances the clinics might be too far away from the population and I know that Ministry is now going to be introducing some of these health posts that will be closer to the people in the village to try and deal with the challenges that particularly rural people confront in terms of accessing services.” Dr. Mushavi said.
She added that the government is also engaging with some religious sects and traditional leaders to educate them on seeking health care as they aim to reduce child mortality within members of certain religions who shun from visiting clinics or hospitals during child birth, risking new born children from being infected by HIV/AIDS.
“As far as religious and traditional leaders there is also a lot of work happening to educate them on the importance of seeking health care and services particularly for their congregants. Quite a lot is being done to try and engage that department.”
Meanwhile, National Aids Council of Zimbabwe Communications Director, Ms Medeline Dube said there is need for media to play an active role in not only disseminating information but to keep on educating people on the prevention of HIV/AIDS.
“We implore you to write your stories, we want to encourage you to continue. At times the story is very emotional, it can be a sad story but we shouldn’t tire on HIV stories. Let’s look on all the issues, let’s write them, let’s conscientise our communities to really understand on issues regarding HIV and AIDS.
“World Aids Day is day we will be launching a new theme or if we are carrying over with an old one, but in essence it’s supposed to be a World Aids Campaign which does not end on the day, it should continue the whole year until the 30th of November the following year,” said Ms Dube.
This year World Aids Day will be commemorated at the HICC on the 1st of December under the theme “Global Solidarity Shared Responsibility.”