In celebration of the Reproductive Health Month, Gauteng Department of Health has encouraged pregnant women to know their health status and that of their children.
"The drive to encourage our people to know their health status will not only assist the department in its goal to reduce infant, child and maternal deaths but will also ensure that the mothers and their babies live a long and healthy life," said Gauteng Health MEC, Hope Papo.
Papo also encouraged women, who suspect that they might be pregnant to present themselves at the health facilities for testing and to begin ante-natal visits before 14 weeks and at the most latest 20 weeks. "This will ensure that all complications are identified early and appropriate treatment is provided. Mothers should ensure that their children receive the necessary immunisations in order to eliminate death from preventable causes."
Immunisation services are provided daily by all clinics and some hospitals in Gauteng and the coverage of children under five years has consistently been above the national target of 90% of all children in the age group.
As a result of successful strategies implemented by the department of combating the HIV epidemic, Papo said that the ratio of maternal deaths has decreased from 167.7/100 000 live births in the period 2005 - 2007 to 145/100 000 live births for the period 2008 to 2010.
He added that other contributory factors includes responding to the Saving Mothers report recommendations; the purchase 20 new dedicated obstetric ambulances in the current financial year and ongoing in service training for doctors and midwives on Essential Steps in the Management of obstetric Emergency (ESMOE).
"The department has also noted a decrease in the mortality rate for children under the age of five from 10.7% in 2006 to 3.4% as at April 2013. This can be attributed largely to amongst other initiatives the Kangaroo Mother Care which has been implemented in all Gauteng hospitals with maternity services, the implementation of school health services, training of health workers on Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses and a successful immunisation programme, " Papo highlighted.
The department has also in the last two years improved services for mothers and children. These initiatives included ensuring that three out of every four new mothers were visited at home within six days of delivery; approximately eight out of 10 pregnant women (80.5%) who were HIV-positive were placed on long-term Antiretroviral Therapy as they were severely immuno-compromised. Papo noted that although this is primarily intended to treat the mother, it also prevents transmission of HIV to the baby. HIV-positive women, who do not require long-term Antiretroviral Therapy during pregnancy receive a shorter course of ARVs.
"In Gauteng we have achieved 99% coverage of babies who are born of HIV positive mothers. In the year 2012/13, only 2.4% of babies born to HIV-positive mothers proved to be HIV infected when tested at the age of six weeks, a rate which is below the national target of 5%," said Papo.
He added that the department's exclusive breastfeeding campaign is also assisting in increasing the number of healthy babies.