South Africa: New Hope for HIV Positive Mothers
Source: IRIN Africa PlusNews reports <IRIN@irinnews.org>
JOHANNESBURG, 22 July (PLUSNEWS) - HIV positive mothers in three
sites in South Africa will now get treatment to ensure their survival
after the births of their babies.
The newly-launched MTCT (mother-to-child transmission) Plus initia-
tive run by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health,
recently announced grants of more than US $9 million to 12 hospitals,
health centres, and clinics in eight African countries.
Previously, prevention of mother-to-child transmission programmes
have focused on infants, but very little has been done for the moth-
ers. AIDS activists have raised concerns that the programmes are sav-
ing babies but condemning them to live as orphans.
Mothers in Medecins Sans Frontieres-run clinics in Khayelitsha, Cape
Town, and at programmes managed by the universities of Witwatersrand
and Natal will for the first time be able to get antiretroviral ther-
apy, care and support services.
"We're anticipating about 300 people in an operational research set-
ting... but it's a very valuable and important step because it will
give us information we don't have yet," Dr James McIntyre, of the
Perinatal HIV Research Unit of the University of Witwatersrand, told
The project will inform future policy by giving an indication of
long-term treatment needs and the logistics involved in providing
treatment. The initial pilot sites will also assess the response of
the mothers to the treatment, as well as any difficulties that might
"The government is saying they don't have enough information yet [to
implement a national treatment programme] and this is one way to find
that information," he added.
But MTCT-Plus will not be restricted to mothers. "The mother exists
within a household, so we are looking at an approach that secures
families, not just one person. That is the rationale behind the pro-
gramme," McIntyre said.
"MTCT-Plus can and will demonstrate that HIV treatment can be done in
the poorest countries. Our aim is to save thousands of lives now and
develop a family-centred care model that can be replicated by others
around the world," Allan Rosenfield, dean of Columbia's Mailman
School, said in a press release.
The initiative, which is supported by a coalition of foundations in-
cluding the Bill and Melinda Gates and Kaiser Family Foundation, will
build on existing MTCT programmes by awarding a total of US $50 mil-
lion to provide care and treatment to more than 10,000 women, chil-
dren, and other family members.
"MTCT-Plus is a major step towards bridging the gap in access to
care, treatment and support. The challenge now is to mobilise the
necessary resources so that this programme can be expanded and tens
of thousands of mothers, fathers, and children can face the future
with hope," Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, said in a press
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