Agence France Presse (09.17.07) - Wednesday, September 19,
South African medical experts and activists on Monday warned
that poor infection controls in public hospitals have caused
dozens of babies to become infected with HIV. Treatment Action
Campaign spokesperson Mark Heywood said he was aware of more
than 40 such infections. "The overall lack of inspection
control policies, procedures, and budget means that the
problem is probably more widespread," he said.
Shaheen Mehtar, head of infection prevention and control at
Cape Town's Tygerberg Academic Hospital, said she personally
knows of 24 infections in newborns. "These are all babies
whose biological mothers were HIV-negative and who spent some
time in hospital," she said.
According to a report in the Cape Times daily newspaper,
doctors blame the infections on HIV-tainted expressed breast
milk being given to hospitalized babies, the re-use of
syringes, and poor sterilization.
Health ministry spokesperson Sibani Mngadi said infection
control is a priority in state hospitals, which are required
to comply with national guidelines. "Expressed breast milk
should only be used to feed a baby of the mother who supplied
the milk. Pooled expressed breast milk should not be used
because of the risk of transmitting infection," said Mngadi,
noting that the ministry has requested a detailed report on
specific cases of accidental infection.
Mehtar said she and her colleagues are working with the
government to improve infection control by training
practitioners, upgrading sterilization methods, and ensuring
that all extracted breast milk is pasteurized and labeled with
the name of the mother who provided it.