, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 25 – Medical experts have stressed the need to improve the quality of health services and awareness campaigns in an effort to reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission.
UNICEF Paediatrics AIDS Regional Advisor Janet Kayita said on Monday that early infant diagnosis was currently limited and the initiation of treatment is often late reducing chances of survival.
At a press conference in Nairobi, She said that women and mothers living with HIV and AIDS should be included in local activities to help increase both coverage and compliance with treatment.
“The second very strong recommendation is targeted support to districts to deliver services to women and children,” she stated.
“We should also work together to make every single contact of a woman and child with the healthcare system count,” she added.
Kenya Treatment Access Movement co-ordinator James Kamau said that every effort should be made to reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission.
“After all we know about HIV and AIDS, vertical transmission is a crime. It must not happen. For too long, we have been talking about it. It is time to walk the talk and not just to talk,” he emphasised.
“We have too many people who are HIV positive and require treatment. We need to stop any further increase.”
There was agreement amongst the experts that serious challenges remain to increase coverage as well as improve the quality of services being provided.
Most countries are still struggling to expand treatment and shift from single dose Nevirapine to more effective combination ARV regimens.
Early infant diagnosis is still limited and the initiation of treatment for children is often late, reducing their chances of survival.
There is still not sufficient linkages with maternal and child health systems as well as family planning and reproductive health services. Countries continue to face human resource constraints, with a shortage of healthcare workers, as well as lack of knowledge and skills hampering efforts to expand services.
In many cases, national policies and guidelines were yet to be fully operationalised at a district and facility level, where reporting and monitoring mechanisms are still weak.
And in some cases, the community outreach services, and the full engagement of communities, critical to ensure women and children remain on treatment, as well as get the emotional support they need, are poor.
A detailed set of recommendations were made, focusing mainly on relatively low cost and straightforward actions that Governments could take before the end of 2009 which would allow for substantial acceleration in 2010, and beyond.
Key among these recommendations included the strengthening of data management, especially to better understand trends, identify bottlenecks and measure the impact of interventions.
Prioritising the geographic areas/districts where prevalence rates are highest so as to intensity support and services where the need is greatest is also a priority.