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Rosemary Celebrates: Baby Declared HIV-free on World AIDS Day
Uganda, December 1, 2015: A chuckle escaped Rosemary's lips. Chock full of emotion, Rosemary was dumbfounded! She even asked for a moment to catch her breath on seeing her baby’s blood sample slowly rest on the negative edge of an HIV test kit. This was the scene today at the Mother-Baby HIV Care Point in Mbale Regional Referral Hospital in eastern Uganda where Rosemary’s child was discovered to be free of HIV.
Eighteen months ago, when the Mother-Baby Care Point In-Charge, Sr. Mukwana, enrolled the newborn in HIV-exposed infant care, Rosemary was losing hope. She had only learned her HIV-positive status during the first antenatal visit. Although she was initiated on the Option B plus Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT), the next weeks were a struggle to accept her own status... yet her biggest worry was transmitting the HIV infection to her unborn child. While Rosemary cannot measure the care and treatment support she has received at Mbale Regional Referral Hospital during this time, she was more than happy to show her excitement and thankfulness at the good news.
Mbale Regional Referral Hospital is one of thirteen hospitals supported by the Strengthening Uganda’s Systems to Treat AIDS Nationally (SUSTAIN) Project. The SUSTAIN project, funded by USAID, supports a comprehensive package of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services at health facilities throughout Uganda—including PMTCT. Rosemary’s experience is just one example of the impact SUSTAIN is having on mother-to-child transmission in Uganda. In line with Ugandan National Policy and Implementation Guidelines, the project is working not only to prevent mother-to-child transmission but to eliminate it altogether. One primary PMTCT focus is establishing Mother-Baby Care Points to track enrollment and retention for HIV-infected pregnant and lactating women and their babies—which is how Rosemary received her care. In the past year, 100% of HIV-positive pregnant women at project-supported sites were enrolled in HIV care services, and 91% were given antiretrovirals for PMTCT. To further the goal of elimination of mother-to-child transmission (eMTCT), 97% of infants born to HIV-positive mothers were given antiretroviral prophylaxis at birth, and 86% of infants exposed to HIV are tested before 18 months.
The efforts of SUSTAIN to achieve eMTCT have thus far been incredibly successful. The Uganda national target for virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission is less than 5%, and the percent of infants born to HIV-positive mothers and are found to be HIV-infected at project-supported sites is only 3.6%. The SUSTAIN project will continue to support Uganda’s health facilities in order to move closer to achieving an AIDS-free generation. As for Rosemary? “I am so excited for my baby and my family.”
Happy World AIDS Day!
December 01, 2015