PREVENTION OF MOTHER-TO-CHILD TRANSMISSION OF HIV IS KEY TO ENSURING AN HIV-FREE GENERATION
About two (2) persons out of every one hundred (100) Ghanaians you meet may be living with HIV according to the 2019 National HIV and AIDS Estimates and Projections.
Since the discovery of HIV in the 1980’s, research and innovations to find an effective and safe vaccine against the virus has eluded scientists though tremendous progress has been made in medications to treat and suppress the virus
Persons living with HIV (PLHIV) initially look just like any normal person until AIDS strike. Thanks to antiretroviral treatment, PLHIV who are on sustained antiretroviral treatment and adhere to their healthcare providers’ advice, live healthier and productive lives and do not develop AIDS like those who are not on treatment.
This is because science has shown that the antiretroviral medicines suppress the virus and stop its replication, thus allowing the immune system to function normally.
The story of a person living with HIV today is more of hope and not death as previously perceived. We are in an exciting chapter of HIV prevention and treatment because of the several medicines and formulations available to suppress the virus or prevent its acquisition.
Sustained HIV treatment when complimented with accepting attitudes and friendliness in households, work places and communities tend to enhance the PLHIV’s survival, wellbeing and productivity amid COVID-19 and other emerging epidemics.
It is even possible for an HIV positive woman on antiretroviral treatment to have HIV negative children. It is impossible for the HIV positive pregnant woman who takes her antiretroviral medication religiously to transmit HIV to the unborn child during pregnancy, delivery or breast feeding.
At all antenatal clinics and health centers, pregnant women are offered prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV services in order to protect the mother and the unborn baby. Therefore, HIV positive mothers should take full advantage of these services to ensure that their babies are born HIV-free.
Take the case of little Kwame who had to miss out on school many times because he was constantly in and out of hospital. As a child, he was always sick, and was hospitalized many times but no one knew what was wrong with him. He was admitted at a specialist clinic where he tested positive for HIV. Kwame’s mother seemed surprised by his diagnosis and swore to commit suicide but the timely intervention of the HIV care provider at the clinic saved the situation.
Today Kwame has to take medicines he knows nothing about for a lifetime. Thankfully it is free, but there is no need for more innocent children to find themselves in the same situation as Kwame. All pregnant women should avail themselves for prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services being offered at ante-natal clinics. Research has shown that most children who have HIV got it from their mothers.
Apparently when Kwame’s mother was pregnant with him, she tested positive to HIV at an antenatal clinic in her community. She kept her status secret, lived in self-denial and eventually stopped her routine visits to the clinic. A neighbor assisted her to the clinic due to ill-health and she was hospitalized. Investigations and data on her previous visit revealed her positive HIV status. The healthcare provider was curious and asked her why she had put an innocent baby through such a risk and she retorted “Madam I worked hard to take good care of myself and the baby. You should congratulate me for not aborting this child.” The nurse gently replied, “Knowing your HIV status and availing yourself for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV services is what you should have done to ensure that your baby does not get infected with the virus”.
In 2019 alone 2,791 babies were born HIV positive. Kwame like these children could have been born free of HIV. Unfortunately some pregnant women like Kwame’s mother hide their HIV status instead of following through procedures at the health care center to ensure their babies are born HIV negative. Thankfully, after intensified counseling Kwame’s mother availed herself for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV services during her second pregnancy three years later and this time the child was born HIV negative.
Today, HIV treatment is far advanced. One or both parents living with HIV can still have a baby who is HIV negative. There are medicines and formulations that suppress the virus and render it impotent called antiretroviral medicines (ARVs). This has helped in reduction of HIV new infections and gives hope for total elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
It is vital that mothers who go for antenatal services ensure that they test to know their HIV status and enroll onto treatment if tested positive, to ensure that no baby is born with HIV. This way, the nation can have a generation who would be free of HIV.
The Ghana AIDS Commission is a supra-ministerial and multi-sectoral body established under the Chairmanship of H. E. the President of the Republic of Ghana by Act 2016, Act 938 of Parliament. The objective of the Commission is to formulate policy on the HIV and AIDS epidemic and...find out more