Mother-to-child HIV transmission rate has reduced from 1.83 per cent in 2013-2014 to 1.51 per cent in 2016/17 following efforts in averting new HIV infections under the 2013-2018 government strategic plans, Rwanda Biomedical Center says.
Dr Placidie Umugwaneza, the Director of the HIV Prevention Unit in HIV/AIDS, STIs and Other Blood Bone Infection Division at Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC), told Sunday Times that the rates reduction was possible thanks to monitoring HIV positive mothers with new born babies.
Figures show that the transmission of HIV from mother to child in 2012 was down to 2.9 percent for HIV-exposed infants at 18 months of age from 6.9 percent in 2009.
"When an HIV positive mother delivers, we monitor her in all 18 months. It means having completed six months, nine months and then 18 months to assess those who might have survived the transmission following advice we give to such mothers. We count the reduction rates based on this constant monitoring and support," she said
She added that an estimated number of children infected between 2013 and 2014 was around 140 and this was reduced to 120 between 2016 and 2017.
The achievement is thanks to the five-year strategic plan at a cost of US$1.032 million. The plan had projected that new infections in children would be reduced from 1,000 to 200 by June 2018.
"Strategies in place that allow this achievement include general population awareness on the risk of mother to child HIV transmission. We reinforced measures for reducing mother-to-child HIV transmission during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding," she said adding that mothers are urged to start treatment early when they are found HIVpositive.
UNAIDS overview of 2017 on HIV/AIDS status covering Eastern and Southern Africa, shows that nine countries in the region had 56 per cent reduction in new HIV infections among children between 2010 and 2016 where significant progress has been made because of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV services.
It shows that number of HIV infections among children through mother-to-child transmission in Rwanda reduced by 61 per cent among children from 0 to 14 years old between 2010 and 2016.
It indicates that Uganda tops in reduction by 83 per cent, Malawi by 74 per cent, Namibia by 73 per cent, Mozambique and Swaziland by 63 per cent, Rwanda by 61 per cent, Kenya by 59 per cent, South Africa by 54 per cent, Ethiopia by 53 per cent, Botswana by 44 per cent and 35 per cent, 15 per cent, 12 per cent, 6 per cent, 6 per cent for Eritrea, South Sudan, Zambia, Tanzania and Angola Respectively
Dr Umugwaneza said: " The reductions were possible thanks to availing free HIV testing services to all women and their male partners coming for antenatal care consultation to identify those with HIV".
Availing free HIV treatment for pregnant and breastfeeding women, she added, played a big role in reducing the risk of transmission during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding period.
"Close follow up of HIV positive mothers and their children up to 24 months to ensure they receive all necessary services and children are tested to exclude HIV infection," she added
Prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services increased from 61% coverage in 2010 to 89% in 2016 in the East and Southern African region with 854,000 pregnant women living with HIV on antiretroviral treatment (ART).
For Rwanda in 2016, PMTCT services coverage was above 80 per cent, the same with Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia.
Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Uganda had PMTCT coverage above 95% and Zimbabwe with 93% coverage.
Madagascar had just 3% coverage, South Sudan 29% while Angola and Eritrea had coverage of around 40%.