More babies in Ghana getting infected with HIV despite PMTCT intervention

Dr. Stephen Ayisi Addo

The National Aids Control Programme (NACP) says there is an increase in HIV mother to child infections despite the implementation of the Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT).

Dr Stephen Ayisi-Addo, Programme Manager, National Aids Control Programme (NACP), said the situation was due to lack of testing and adherence to medication by pregnant women, hence the continuous infection from mothers to their babies.

At the 2023 dissemination of National HIV estimates, Dr Ayisi Addo expressed concern that facilities continue to record newborn babies infected with the virus, which is a transmission from the mother to the baby.

The Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) is one of the interventions instituted by NACP, Ghana Aids Commission (GAC) and partners to ensure the prevention of HIV transmission from mothers to their babies.

With the intervention, pregnant women would have to get tested for HIV at Antenatal care service and those found positive would be to put on medication to protect the baby from getting infected.

The National HIV estimation showed that 12,108 mothers, age 15 to 49 years are receiving Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) treatment.

It also indicated that 13, 445, mothers needing PMTCT between the ages of 15 to 49 years.

He noted that a lot of the babies contracting HIV from their mothers were babies from mothers who missed testing during ANC, saying, “We are talking covering about 90 per cent of all ANC attendance for HIV testing, so those who come in late do not get the treatment to prevent the mother from transmission to the baby.

“We need to be able to improve the ANC testing coverage. We need to improve so that people will have supervised delivery on their routine services offered when pregnant women come to the facility,” he added.

The Programme Manager also indicated that lack of adherence in taking their medication by HIV infected mothers was causing transmission from mothers to their new-borns.

He said even with those tested and identified, not all of them get the anti-retroviral treatment to prevent mother to child transmission.

Besides, out of the about 6,000 PMTC facilities, just 730 facilities were delivering ARV.

Dr Ayisi Addo said at facilities where there were no PMTC coverage, pregnant women would have to be transferred to other facilities for such services, but they refuse to go due to transportation issues, hence, the new strategy to decentralise antiretroviral therapy across all centres.

He said postnatal transmission was also occurring due to exposure to breast feeding.

As part of the interventions, the national response programme had instituted strict infant feeding guidelines for HIV positive mothers to prevent transmission.

However, some mothers are unable to adhere to the guidelines and such gaps are contributing to the continuous records in transmission.

The Programme Manager acknowledged that the infant feeding guidelines for persons living with HIV had reduced due to unavailability of trained service providers to educate the mothers as they missed the appropriate feeding procedure, getting their babies exposed to the virus.

“It is our aspiration and determination to make sure that we address all these issues and improve on strategic interventions to improve on the figures and reduce mother to child transmission to at least 2 per cent, which is an elimination target.

Dr Stephen Atuahene, Director General of the GAC, said strict adherence to treatment was key as it suppressed the virus and would help to avoid perinatal transmission.

He said it was important for HIV positive women to achieve viral suppression before getting pregnant and necessary to maintain the suppression status, saying, “It is also the responsibility of the mother to adhere to treatment, maintain viral suppression status and avoid transmission.

“As long as you can do that, you have a better chance of averting transmission to your baby and so adherence is very crucial to all persons living with HIV and taking the medication. This is so important for mothers because every woman will want to have a healthy baby and therefore you have to avoid any risk that will expose your child to infection.”

Source: GNA

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