Program To Help Stop HIV/AIDS Spread From Mother to Child

A nationwide program that will link maternal care programs, AIDS testing and medical treatment will eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS within 10 years, health officials said yesterday.

“Our first goal is to drastically re­duce HIV/AIDS transmission from mother to child by 2015 and then eliminate it by 2020,” said Dr Mean Chhiv Vun, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, who said he informed pro­vin­cial level health care provid­ers at a meeting on Friday.

“People ask if it’s an ambitious time­line, but I think it’s very important that we set an ambitious target; it’s quite difficult for a developing coun­try like Cambodia to spend a lot of money on pediatric care,” he added.

Called the linked-response mod­el, the project depends on a compr­e­­hen­sive web of services that co­or­dinates all facets of health care relevant to HIV/AIDS—everything from NGOs that provide in-home su­p­­­port to pregnant women, to health clinics which do AIDS testing, to counselors who assist those diagnosed.

In 2008, the Ministry of Health, al­ong with various UN agencies, laun­ched a pilot version of the program in the Prey Veng and Takeo provinces, covering 67 health cent­ers and about 750,000 people. Over the course of two years, said Dr Chhiv Vun, the results have been promising: 85 per­cent of pregnant wo­men were ref­erred to antenatal care. Of them, 80 percent received an HIV test and just a fraction of those who tested positive gave birth to children with HIV.

“Only two babies born to 82 positive mothers tested positive,” said Dr Chhiv Vunm.

Quoting figures from the National Center for Maternal Health, Dr Chhiv Vunm said that the 5 percent of all ba­b­ies born from HIV-positive mothers contract the disease. “By 2015 we can reduce that to 0.5 percent,” he said.

Tony Lisle, country coordinator at UNAIDS, said the goal was “very reasonable.”

“There’s no reason why we can’t achieve that,” he said, adding that the number of pregnant women tested for HIV/AIDS nearly doubled between 2007 and 2008, while the percentage of those who received prophylactic medication for their unborn children jumped from 11 to 27. The data for 2009 aren’t yet available, but in the first th­ree-quarters of the year, said Mr Lisle, “we have seen an even more significant improvement.”

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