HIV, the human immune-deficiency virus that can result in AIDS, has various ways in which it can be contracted. One of the most difficult to accept is the transmission of the virus from a mother to her infant before, during or immediately after birth. Most of the children below the age of ten years who are child infected have been infected in this way, either during pregnancy, during labor and delivery or with prolonged breastfeeding. In the absence of intervention, the risk of mother-to-child transmission is 30-45%.
HVCF offers such intervention to all pregnant women who enroll in the clinic for antenatal care. It is proven to be very successful, and it is a day of joy for all, mother and staff alike, when a child who has been exposed has been, through testing, declared HIV negative.
How does this program actually take place?
When mothers-to-be are identified to be HIV positive through testing, they are placed on antiretroviral drugs. After delivery, because the infant has been exposed, the infant is placed on a specific drug (Nevirapine) for six weeks.
Why do you give the baby drugs? Do you already know the child is positive?
No, we only know that the infant has been exposed to the virus. The drug given to the child is preventive.
So does this mean that the baby cannot contract HIV?
No, it is part of the treatment only. After the first six weeks, another preventive treatment will follow to hinder any infections since the child is still exposed through breastfeeding.
Has this been proving successful?
Yes, it has been very successful. In our clinic thus far, we do not have any cases of infants being tested positive if the mother and child have had the treatment.