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South Africa: Babies can be born free of mom's HIV

<p>Thandeka Vinjwa</p>

January 9, 2013

OR Tambo. – Many challenges prevent pregnant women from accessing Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) services despite a strong HIV management programme in the area.

Although there are 350 antiretroviral (ARV) accredited sites (clinics and hospitals) that provide PMTCT in this Eastern Cape health district, there are various social and cultural factors that prevent women from accessing it, thereby increasing the chances of passing HIV on to their unborn children.

"Some pregnant women do not show up for their treatment, especially when women find it difficult to disclose their HIV status to their partners,” said a health care worker at Bodweni clinic. “Others do not even want to do HCT (HIV counselling and testing) when pregnant because of certain cultural and religious beliefs. But organisations like the TAC (Treatment Action Campaign) are tackling these issues by helping to educate these communities.”

At a recent meeting, TAC community mobilisers agreed that the organisation’s PMTCT support groups need to be revived. “In order to have an HIV-free generation, mothers need to take care of their lives as well as to protect their unborn babies,” said a TAC representative. “Without ARVs, an HIV positive mother's risk of transmitting HIV to her baby is as high as 30 percent, with ARV's the risk is reduced to below two percent.”

The TAC gave the following tips and advice to expecting mothers:

- Get tested for HIV before 14 weeks of pregnancy.

- Have your CD4 count taken to determine which ARV you need to take.

- Adhere to your ARVs daily throughout your pregnancy.