Fewer babies born with HIV in South Africa

(Western Cape) –  Programme changes over last 15 years have yielded excellent results.

GOOD NEWS: South Africa has made great progress against the paediatric HIV epidemic since 2002. 

Fewer than two babies out of every 100 born to HIV-positive mothers in South Africa are infected with HIV at birth. These low rates point to the success of the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programme in South Africa that has resulted in a decrease of the transmission rate from about 30% at six weeks in the early 2000s, to the 2015/2016 rate of 1.5%.

The Western Cape, which pioneered the country’s PMTCT programme in the late 90s and early 2000s, has often been one step ahead. In 2003, the province’s mother-to-child transmission figure was 17.3% at six weeks. In the 2014/2015 year the rate was down to about 1.4% – under the national target of 1.8%. The most recent figures in the Western Cape show that from April to December last year, at ten weeks after birth, the rates of mother-to-child transmission peaked at 1.4% and at their lowest were just over 0.4%.

Neshaan Peton, the Western Cape’s Deputy Director of the HIV Treatment and PMTCT programme, told GroundUp that changes in how the province dealt with mother-to-child transmission have been linked to a drop in transmission rates. “With every policy change a decrease in transmission from mother to baby was noted at six weeks after giving birth,” said Peton.

If a pregnant woman comes into a healthcare facility in the Western Cape, she is tested for HIV and if positive she is initiated on ART on the same day. Peton said that ideally the woman should come into the clinic before 20 weeks. The earlier she comes in, the lower the chances are of transmission to her baby. Babies infected at birth are initiated on antiretroviral treatment. If they do not have HIV at birth, they are tested again at ten weeks.

For the full article: GroundUp